ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Aquino off to ChinaBy David Swartzemtruber
Philippine President Benigno Aquino will lead a group of 300 businessmen when he visits China starting Tuesday.
Aquino's state visit comes amid the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands and the anniversary of the Manila bus hostage tragedy that killed eight Hong Kong tourists.
Trade and investments will be the main agenda of President Aquino during his visit to China.
Among the trade agreements to be signed is a five-year development program for trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
It will focus on infrastructure, mining, energy, information and tourism, which will generate US$60 billion in investments for the Philippines.
Contentious issues such as the territorial dispute over the Spratly islands might also be raised by President Aquino, but both sides agree that the controversial issue will not affect bilateral relations.
China maintains its willingness to partner with claimant-countries including the Philippines to jointly explore the contested group of islands.
Aside from promoting the Philippines as a business destination, President Aquino will also promote the Philippines as a tourist hub.
With tourist arrivals from China posting an annual growth rate of about 20 per- cent, it is now one of the country's fastest-growing markets. This is despite the bungled hostage rescue last year that killed eight tourists from Hong Kong.
Though China will not be asking Hong Kong to lift its travel warning to the Philippines, China will continue to promote exchanges with the Philippines.
Aside from Beijing, President Aquino will also go to Shanghai and Xiamen, where he will honor his Chinese ancestors. These historical ties between the two countries give rise to optimism that both countries will be able to resolve sensitive issues that have recently strained bilateral relations.
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