Pre-Departure Briefing on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s visit to Cambodia, Hong Kong and China by Department of Foreign Affairs Acting Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
08 May 2017

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Hi, good morning. Thank you for the introduction.

I have a statement on the forthcoming visit of the President to Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Beijing.

Good morning colleagues from the press.

The President will be travelling to Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Beijing from 10 to 15, May [2017].

In Cambodia, the President primarily in his capacity as chair of ASEAN will be participating at the World Economic Forum for ASEAN from 10 to 11, May.

The organizers designated the President as an honored guest of the WEF alongside the Prime Minister of Vietnam who is currently the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The World Economic Forum or WEF is a not-for-profit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

It’s annual meeting in Davos is attended by leading CEOs, G20 leaders, and heads of state in government, and international organizations.

WEF also convenes annual regional meetings in locations around the world and a special one focused on ASEAN.

Cambodia will host the World Economic Forum on ASEAN for the first time. The theme for this WEF is: “Youth, Technology, and Growth: Securing ASEAN’s Digital and Demographic Dividends.”

This theme supports the three program pillars of the WEF on ASEAN 2017, namely: ASEAN in the New Global Context; ASEAN and the Connectivity Agenda; ASEAN and the Youth Agenda.

And as ASEAN Chair, the President is expected to share his views on the region’s achievements and challenges, and to deliver a message to the youth of ASEAN.

The President has also been given the opportunity to address international investors regarding his economic plan.

As a focus of WEF later this week is ASEAN, the President is likely to inform the participants of the progress made in the building of the ASEAN Economic Community.

In particular, at the 30th ASEAN Summit held a little over a week ago, the leaders welcomed the ASEAN Economic Community’s thrust to pursue three strategic measures, namely: increasing trade and investment; integrating micro, small and medium enterprises in the digital economy; and developing an innovation-driven economy and to reduce trade transaction costs by 10 percent by 2020.

The leaders also noted the progress in major connectivity projects such as the ASEAN roll-on roll-off shipping network, particularly the maiden voyage of the sea linkage route between Davao, General Santos, and Bitung which was launched on 30 April in Davao City.

The leaders welcomed the initiative on the establishment of the ASEAN science, technology, and innovation partnership contributions. And the Philippines and Thailand individually pledged to contribute one million US dollars towards this new project.

They look forward to the target conclusion of the ASEAN-Hong Kong-China FTA within the year and welcome the launch of formal region-to-region talks on a framework setting out the parameters of a future free trade agreement between ASEAN and the European Union.

The leaders noted the need to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial regional, comprehensive, economic partnership agreement amidst the sluggish economic environment and the trends towards protectionism.

More than 700 leaders from business, government, civil society, and the media are expected to participate in the WEF.

From Cambodia, the President flies to Hong Kong where he is scheduled to meet with a large Filipino community based in the Special Administrative Region.

As of March 2017, there were around 210,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong. Many of whom work in the hotel and restaurant industry or in the households of Hong Kong residents.

The Filipino community in Hong Kong has been actively partnering with our Consulate General in ensuring the rights and welfare of our kababayans in Hong Kong are protected and promoted and the community has also been instrumental in promoting enhanced trade relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong and in promoting our country’s investment opportunities and tourist destinations.

The President is expected to stay in Hong Kong from 11 to 13, May 2017.

He proceeds to Beijing on May 13th to participate in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation or BRF, which is scheduled to take place on 14 to 15, May 2017.

He will join 27 other heads of state and government, as well as heads of three international organizations.

The BRF will have three parts: the opening ceremony, a ministerial level dialogue where there will be an exchange of views involving participants from government, industries, and research institutes; and a leaders’ roundtable to be chaired by President Xi Jinping which will be attended by the heads of state and government and international organizations.

The topics they are expected to discuss include: infrastructure connectivity; economic and trade cooperation; industrial investment; energy and resources; financial support; people-to-people exchanges; ecological and environmental protection; and marine cooperation.

That ends my statement. Thank you.


Maricel Halili (TV 5): Hi, sir. Good morning.


Ms. Halili: Sir, with regards to the visit of the President to China, will there be any chance of having a bilateral meeting between the leaders of China and the Philippines?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: That’s one thing we are trying to work out. As we can imagine as host of the Belt and Road Forum, President Xi and Premier Li would probably have a very busy schedule so we’re trying to work out possible bilateral meetings not just with the Chinese leadership but also with the 27 other heads of state who are attending the forum.

Ma. Halili: And what issues are we targeting to raise if ever there will be a bilateral meeting?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Issues of common concern between the Philippines and China.

Ms. Halili: What are these, sir?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: We cannot preempt what the President will raise. But definitely issues that are critical to our national interest.

But since this is primarily an economic forum, so we would expect that if such a meeting would take place, the President would probably be discussing economic cooperation with China.

Ms. Halili: What are the chances that the issues on South China Sea will be discussed?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I’m not sure. I cannot say for certain if it will be discussed.

Ms. Halili: Sir, just one more. Sir, doon sa 27 other heads of state, kasama po ba doon ‘yung Russia?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: I believe yes. I believe the Russian Prime Minister will be attending the forum. But you can check the website, I’m not really sure.

Q: For this Beijing trip, because the President will attend the Belt and Road Forum, so how is our expectation on this issue? And in your opinion, what is the significance of the Belt and Road can benefit to the Philippines? Thank you.

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, as I mentioned in a previous press briefing, the President’s foreign engagements will be focused on securing the national interest.

Anything that can help the Philippines in its economic development is very welcome and we believe that the Belt and Road initiative can be a helpful mechanism for the Philippines to promote its economic interests in the region.

Q: Just a follow up. So how do you think that the Belt and Road Forum and our DuterteNomics can work together to the practical cooperation in the future?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Well, one of the priorities of the Philippines and ASEAN as a whole is connectivity and of course, the Belt and Road Forum also prioritizes connectivity, infrastructure, and other — the regulatory connectivities.

So we expect that that will be a main topic of discussion and one of the agenda items that will be pushed for during the forum.

Q: And how do you comment about the Philippines and China relationship in recent years?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: The China – Philipp… The Philippines-China relationship has been steadily improving in all aspects over the last few years and it’s also a welcome development for us to engage more actively with China on economic cooperation.

Q: And last question about the Cambodia World Economic Forum. I heard that our chairman of AIIB will also attending that event. So will there be any chance President Duterte will meet him in Cambodia and if they will have a meeting, so what kind of topics they are going to talk about?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR:  I have no information of whether there is a proposed bilateral meeting between the President and the AIIB President.

But certainly, anything that can propel the Philippines economic agenda would be most welcome.

Q: Thank you, sir.

Q: Good morning, sir. My name is Dong from Xinhua News Agency of China. Well, I saw an exhibition a few days ago in the Anthropology Museum in the Luneta. It’s an exhibition about Galleon Trade in the 16th Century. I’m impressed because that is part of the Asian Maritime Silk Road. At that time, the Manila, Philippines is a trade hub that connected China, Japan and even Mexico. So I’m curious that how does the Philippines position itself in the modern international trade arena? I mean, does this administration have a plan for — is part in the world trade as a trade hub or manufacture base especially that we have the proposal from China that there is a new Belt and Road proposal right now? So what is the administration’s plan for the Philippines? Thank you.

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Actually, that’s an excellent question and the Philippines has always prided itself on being at a strategic crossroads between the east and the west.

And as you mentioned, the Philippines played a crucial part in the Manila – Acapulco – Spain Galleon Trade and if you have that on the eastern part of the country and at the western part, you have the new maritime Silk Road, then it would reinforce the view that the Philippines is actually a central part to facilitating world trade and that’s something definitely that the administration is looking at how to promote that strategic role in facilitating world trade.

Christian Esguerra (ABS-CBN): Sir, good morning.


Mr. Esguerra: Can you give us more details on the planned meetings or will there be actual meetings between the President and certain — particular investors? Because you said that he is going to address the possible investors during the WEF in ASEAN? Will there be one-on-one meetings for example, between private corporations in the Philippines and the — and Cambodia and other countries?

ACTING DFA SPOKESPERSON BOLIVAR: Thank you. In particular, the organizers of the World Economic Forum have given the President I think a press conference, if I’m not mistaken, to address the business leaders, the CEOs who are present to promote DuterteNomics and the President’s socio-economic agenda.

So that would be the main engagement that the President would have with the CEOs who are attending WEF.