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5:30 pm on 5 January 2023, Thursday
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said that his “productive” bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on soft infrastructure, climate change, renewable energy, people-to-people ties and agricultural cooperation that include the so-called “durian protocol.”
In an interview in Beijing, Marcos said that Xi seemed to be “very interested” in strengthening the relationship between the Philippines and China, which turned sour in the last decade due to maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
“It has been a very wide-ranging discussion… the meeting ran very long, and that’s why I’m actually very optimistic because President Xi seemed to be genuinely interested in all of these issues and finding a way to move forward to again strengthen the relationship between China and the Philippines. I’m quite gratified that we had made a good start,” Marcos said on Wednesday night.
They also discussed climate change, with Marcos describing it as “a subject that we cannot leave alone, or it will come back to haunt us in the future.”
An offer of so-called “soft infrastructure” in terms of digitalization of government bureaucracy as well as improving connectivity across the country was also discussed.
“We had a very fruitful exchange of ideas and beginnings of a plan for moving forward… And we covered so many subjects, much more than as usual for these very formal meetings. We talked about the trade imbalance between our country and China and what we can do to remedy this,” he said.
Marcos said the meeting also yielded a “durian protocol,” referring to the agreement on the phytosanitary requirements for exporting fresh durians from the Philippines to China between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and China’s General Administration of Customs.
“Because they are opening their trade to imports of durian and other agricultural products from the Philippines so that we can redress the imbalance in our imports and exports from China,” said the President.
The two leaders also discussed what they could do “to move forward, to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have.”
The Philippines and China earlier inked 14 bilateral agreements, including deals on agriculture, infrastructure, development cooperation, maritime security, and tourism, among others.