5 Agreements with China Signed; Accords Cover Tourism, Energy, Fisheries, Trade, & Investments

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Byline: FERDIE J. MAGLALANG

BEIJING, China (Via PLDT) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo witnessed here yesterday the formal signing of five bilateral agreements of cooperation between the Philippines and China in the field of tourism, energy, fisheries, trade, and investments on the first day of her three-day state visit here.

After the expanded bilateral talks with Chinese leaders at the Great Hall of the People here, the President, along with Chinese President Hu Jintao, witnessed the formal signing of the state-tostate agreements by their respective government officials.

On top of the five bilateral agreements is the $400-million loan accord between North Luzon Railways Corp. and China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. Group for the construction of the Caloocan-Malolos-Clark road project.

The road construction project, seen to be fully completed by 2008, is intended to decongest Metro Manila and promote the development of Northern Luzon in line with the Presidents 10point agenda to open new business opportunities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Also signed was an agreement which exempts from visa requirements for all holders of diplomatic and official or service passports of both governments. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo signed on behalf of the Philippines.

In a follow-up to the recent opening of the office of the Philippine tourism attache here last July 21, the Philippines also entered into an agreement with the Chinese government for tourism cooperation, including the relaxation of visa requirements for Chinese tourists.

The Philippines and China also agreed to undertake joint tourism promotion activities in the next two years, develop the skills of those in the tourism industry and encourage more tourism investments.

The agreement also entails simplification of the visa procedures and reduce fees to attract more Chinese tourists. The visa fee for a 20-member tour group from China, including its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, has been cut from $30 to $18 per member.

Despite the recent outbreak of the dreaded Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China, Chinese tourist arrivals in the Philippines increased by 15 percent, thus making China the 11th largest source of tourists visiting the country.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) earlier forecast that by 2010, outbound tourists from China will grow to about 30 million from about 8.5 million in 2000.

In the countrys quest for energy independence, Philippine National Oil Corp. (PNOC) president Ed Manalac signed a joint marine seismic undertaking agreement for "pre-exploration" of oil potentials in the disputed islands of the South China Sea.

This is in line with the two countries resolve to transform the South China Sea from a region of conflict to a zone of peace and cooperation in the context of bilateral and multilateral relations, without necessary giving up the countrys claim to the disputed islands.

The last agreement signed between Manila and Beijing was on fisheries cooperation. It was signed by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Vice Minister Zhang Baowen of the Ministry of Agriculture of China.

Arroyo meets Hu Jintao

BEIJING, China (Via PLDT) President Arroyo met for an hour with with Chinese leaders led by President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People here and strengthened the countrys diplomatic ties with China in the fields of trade and investment, agriculture, education and culture, defense, and judicial-legal.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the Mrs. Arroyo invited President Hu Jintao to make a reciprocal state visit next year, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the RP-China relations. Jintao has reportedly accepted Mrs. Arroyos invitation.

Jintao, 61, an engineer and geologist by profession, is the head of the State Council and acts as the chief executive office for government affairs. …