New Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is making his first trip to China this week, on a mission to calm strained bilateral relations and secure lucrative trade and investment deals.
Announcing his country was "open for business," Aquino invited the Chinese business community to invest in the Philippines," at the Philippines-China Economic and Trade Forum. Together with 300 business leaders from the Philippines, Aquino pointed out that his country's economy had shown signs of improvement under his leadership, and vowed to rid the Philippines of corruption to ensure foreign companies are met with a level playing field.
Later on Wednesday, the two countries signed a five-year plan to boost trade six-fold to $60 billion and promote tourism and language training.
Apart from promoting a business agenda, Aquino's five day visit is seeking to repair bilateral relations as tensions have increased over the South China Sea. Aquino raised the issue in his Wednesday meeting with Hu Jin Tao but his main focus was on improving economic ties, Philippine spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.
Manila has accused Beijing of intimidation in their dispute over a group of islands believed to be rich in oil, gas and other minerals. Earlier in the year, the Philippines accused Chinese vessels of "bullying" its ships and firing on unarmed fishermen. In retaliation, the Philippines renamed the South China Sea the "West Philippine Sea."
In August 2010, 8 Chinese nationals were killed when a Manila policeman hijacked a tourist bus with 21 Hong Kong citizens on board. After the incident, which the Chinese government maintains could have been avoided, the Philippines was given a "black travel alert" by the Hong Kong government, advising travelers to avoid the country.
China, with an eye on the Philippines' vast and mostly untapped natural resources, has signalled that it does not want territorial or any other issues to hinder future economic cooperation.
An official Xinhua news commentary said that relations between the two countries should be underpinned by strong trade ties and "proper settlement of the maritime disputes in the South China Sea."
Report: Philippine leader seeks to woo Chinese investors (AFP, 31 August 2011)
Report: Philippine leader urges China to boost investment (AP, 31 August 2011)
Report: Aquino seeks Chinese business, improved relations (CNN, August 31 2011)