FUZHOU, China – The Chinese province that is the hometown of some 1.68 million Filipino-Chinese eyes more investments to the Philippines amid improvement of bilateral ties between the two countries.
The Fujian provincial government said its historical ties and geographic proximity to the Philippines makes it an attractive market for Chinese investments in agriculture, mining, and electronics.
“Fujian and the Philippines are only divided by sea and are very close. We would like to cooperate with the Philippines in the areas that we are strong,” Li Lin, Deputy Director General of Fujian’s Foreign Affairs Office, told Filipino journalists visiting the provincial capital Fuzhou on Saturday, July 15.
Since 2016, under President Rodrigo Duterte, trade between the Philippines and Fujian province has reached $6.9 billion.
“The Philippines has about 100 million people and has great potential for our economic cooperation… Also because of the improved condition of China-Philippines relations, there is also potential for our investments to grow,” said Zhao Wei Ling, Deputy Director of the province’s Department of Commerce.
“Our businessmen are interested in the agricultural sector, labor-intensive industries and the mining sector,” Zhao said.
Bilateral ties between the two nations improved under Duterte, who opted to set aside the country’s landmark victory over the South China Sea, in exchange of China’s financial assistance and economic support.
One of the reasons for the interest in the Philippine market, Zhao said, is the success of Chinese businessmen originating from Fujian province.
Found along China’s southeastern coast, the province was the origin of thousands of early Chinese settlers in the Philippines.
“One of the main reasons for investing in your country is that there are a lot of overseas Chinese who came from Fujian. They are quite successful business people. Henry Sy, Lucio Tan – they are all from Fujian province,” said Zhao.
Tan owns flag carrier Philippine Airlines, as well as other businesses in the banking and manufacturing industries. Sy is known for his SM malls business, which has since expanded to banking and real estate.
The province and the Philippines are also keen on improving tourist arrivals both ways.
Fujian province is home to 37 million people. One of its cities, Xiamen, has direct flights from Manila and is becoming a favored tourist destination among Filipinos.
“We can see there are frequent people-to-people exchanges on both sides, and the Philippines is a major tourist destination for Fujian people,” Li said.
“The Philippine tourists coming to China are also increasing and last year more than 100,000 Filipino tourists visited Fujian province,” he added.
Many Filipinos also live and study in Xiamen prompting the Philippine government to establish a Consulate in the city.
In 2016, Xiamen and Cebu City have signed a letter of intent to parter as sister cities. While there is still a need for a formal agreement, Li is hopeful this would be finalized soon to further promote cultural and economic exchanges.