PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has asked for three to four years to solve graft, corruption and illegal drugs in the country.
Facing an enthusiastic crowd of Filipinos in Hong Kong Saturday, Duterte said he and his Cabinet are doing their best to encourage Filipino professionals working abroad to return home and contribute to national and economic development.
“Give me time. Three to four years… Four years okay talaga tayo [and we’ll really be okay],” Duterte said in his speech at the Regal Airport Hotel.
“I will not allow my country to go to the dogs. With that kind of situation, around three to four years, you could come home. Invest in some business,” he said.
The President said overseas Filipino workers had an important role to play in eliminating corruption in the government by being assertive when dealing with corrupt officials.
Should the Philippines maintain its momentum, Duterte said, he sees the country stabilizing in three years to bring about better lives for Filipinos.
He also noted that improved relations between the Philippines and China could open doors to various investments that can generate more jobs.
He expressed optimism about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying that he expects something good to be gained from the two-day forum in Beijing.
“This is the strategy of President Xi Jinping for prosperity in this region,” he said.
At the Belt and Road Forum Sunday, the President’s special envoy, Jose de Venecia Jr., proposed the joint development of oil and natural gas by China and Southeast Asian nations in the disputed South China Sea.
“It is obvious as members of the Asean family that today, with China, we must find ways and means to jointly develop the area’s hydrocarbon potential to help lessen our common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Middle East,” De Venecia said in the two-day event hosted by Xi.
De Venecia cited as a precedent the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), in which the Philippines, Vietnam, and China agreed to conduct joint explorations in the South China Sea.
The JMSU was signed by the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the early 2000s when De Venecia was speaker of the House.
Critics of the deal, however, criticized the JMSU for supposedly putting the Philippine government at a disadvantage since up to 80 percent of the JMSU site was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
In 2008, a petition was filed against the JMSU before the Supreme Court.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana earlier said the Philippines should push for better trade with China “knowing the lessons of the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking.”
De Venecia insisted, however, that joint development of the disputed area would turn the South China Sea into a “zone of friendship.”
“Look at the potential for peace, excellencies, for the economic development in the heartland of the South China Sea,” he said.
“Small sea ports, airports, oil pipelines, small tourism townships and fishing villages, in the spirit of the Silk Road, can rapidly rise in the contested areas once converted into a zone of friendship,” said De Venecia.
Toward the end of his speech, De Venecia also proposed the addition of a third route in China’s proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, one of two components of the Belt and Road Initiative.
This third route would encompass the 250-year-old Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route. Such a route could expand the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to include Australia and Latin America, he said.
Duterte and his delegation were already in Beijing for the two-day Belt and Road Forum. However, he did not attend the opening ceremony where President Xi and other leaders gave speeches.
Duterte is accompanied by acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Also joining the President are Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, and National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia.
Also part of the official delegation are Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Rep. Wesley Gatchalian, PNP Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, and Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana.
On Sunday, May 14, the President was scheduled to have a meeting with the Prime Minister of Mongolia Jargatulygn Erdenebat at the Drawing II Room of the Grand Hyatt Beijing Hotel.
The President was then scheduled to join the welcome dinner at the Great Hall of the People.
On Monday, May 15, the President will go to Yanqi Lake, International Convention Center for the welcoming ceremony.
He will then join the Leaders Roundtable Session 1 at the Ji Xian Hall of the International Convention Center.
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, also known as the Silk Road Summit, will be attended by 29 heads of states and over 60 countries.
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