China-Bohol partnership spared
from Scarborough Shoal issue
Bohol continues to funnel support from China for future development, amid the China-Philippines reef rift.The Philippines, alongside other nations , are currently entangled in proprietary controversies over the oil-rich sea and islands.
His Excellency Zhao Jianhua, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of the Philippines, expressed in his message during the commemorative program for the 160th Foundation Day celebration of Bohol on July 22 that he focuses instead on pursuing the partnership of Bohol and China in common development agenda.
The celebration revolve around the theme, “Commemorating history, celebrating friendship”.
The Chinese ambassador pointed out that China and Bohol can proceed with further partnership despite the several rounds of reef rift with the Philippines—the latest in West Philippine Sea or South China Sea–and assured lasting friendship with the province.
He said he came “not to argue” but rather “enhance friendship and expand cooperation.”
The Chinese ambassador expressed that China “sincerely longed that our friendship will last forever, our cooperation will be forever.”
More mutual exchanges are “certainly expected” to be in place, particularly in tourism and agriculture, and other areas of cooperation explored between China and Bohol, according to Ambassador Zhao.
The China-Bohol relation encompasses exchanges not just in tourism but such other fields as agriculture, investment promotion, education, technology and human resource development.
The ambassador said agriculture in his country is an industry developed in the past 5,000 years, and “we have experiences and advantages which we would like to share to Bohol.”
The ambassador further discussed cooperation in agricultural development, tourism and disaster management with Governor Edgar Chatto during the luncheon meeting that followed the envoy’s courtesy call.
The Chinese ambassador also cited in his message during the program, the sisterhood pact of Bohol and Jiangxi of China, for the exchange of notes on Chocolate Hills and Mt. Lushan.
The Chocolate Hills that baffled scientists and Mt. Lushan–a world heritage and a world cultural landscape–are both charter members of the World Famous Mountains Association (WFMA).
It could be the ambassador’s first time in the province, but he said “Bohol is no stranger to me.
“Chocolate Hills in Carmen and Loboc River are popular and well-known among the Chinese people. The Chinese like the beautiful sceneries and friendly people of Bohol. I am sure there are more Chinese tourists coming to Bohol and this is going to be a great boost to the development of Bohol,” the ambassador said.
Zhao assured his government “is doing its best to support” more Chinese tourists who are coming to Bohol, citing the 17-percent increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the Philippines last year.
Accompanied by Philippine Special Envoy to China, Carlos Chan, Ambassador Zhao described his brief but rare stay in Bohol as “one visit of discoveries,” with the “land of natural beauty, smile and great hospitality” leaving him lasting impressions.
Ambassador Zhao also lauded Bohol for “producing more rice and is keeping its strong advantage as the bread basket in the Philippines.”
He said China has over 500 years of agricultural development they can share to Philippine farmers, hinting that exchange of ideas and best farming practices can increase productivity and strengthen foreign relations.
Ambassador Zhao also extolled Boholanos for getting back in shape fast as signs of recovery show nine months after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked the
province on October 13 last year.
In fact, it came first in his message, congratulating the Boholanos as he also condoled for those who lost family members and friends during the earthquake.
He also shared the China experience with a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in 2008 and how the Chinese people recovered.
With a common lessons learned, the ambassador cited disaster risk management as one area of meaningful mutual exchange that can be advanced.
FRIENDSHIP TO LAST
The Bohol-China connections traces back to the pre-Spanish years.
Beyond matters on trade, Boholanos have affinity with the Chinese, as can be seen by the flourishing businesses of Chinese citizens who got naturalized Filipino who had either been adopted or married and settled in Bohol.
“I can feel the affinity and the affection of the Boholanos towards China,” the ambassador beamed,” Ambassador Zhao added.
For their part, around 230,000 Chinese people visit the Philippines and top-billed as major contributor in tourism, and the number even increased by 70 percent increase since last year.
As the China continues to support sending tourists here, developing tourism infrastructure can be an area where China can help Bohol.
REEF RIFT A NON-ISSUE
China and the Philippines scrambled for the territory rights over the oil-rich “South China Sea islets and waters within the Philippines’ continental shelf”.
Aside from China and Philippines, other countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan also vie over the mineral-rich area spanning the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.(with reports from Ven Arigo, Rey Anthony Chiu and Ric Obedencio)
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