By Christina Mendez
BEIJING – A “new page of history” has begun for China, the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), President Duterte declared as he participates in China’s One Belt, One Road Forum here that focuses on Beijing’s plan to improve connectivity and cooperation with Asia, Africa and Europe.
In a recent interview with China Central Television, Duterte said the “new chapter” involves economic development and if China were to help the Philippines and ASEAN, it could only do so “if we come up with a common economic program for everybody.”
“If there’s investment, we can have more businesses, make the economy grow and China would likewise benefit from it,” Duterte said.
“Healthy and robust economic exchanges are key to achieving the goal. It is our hope that many initiatives, including OBOR (One Belt, One Road), can be part of these wider exchanges,” he said.
Since he assumed office last year, Duterte has been vocal about his preference for China and Russia rather than the United States, and has put the territorial and maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing on the backburner.
This was even after the Philippines’ victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration where Manila’s maritime entitlements were reinforced over Beijing’s sweeping claims over the whole of the South China Sea.
Touted as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project, the One Belt, One Road initiative is seen as a part of China’s strategy for economic diplomacy as it puts emphasis on enhancing land as well as maritime routes with other countries.
Duterte said the forum to be held today and tomorrow would serve as a platform to learn about economic development and exchange views with Beijing on several issues.
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