MANILA - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to leave for the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province, China.
In an interview at her residence in Lubao, Pampanga in Northern Philippines, the former president and now Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives said the transformation that brought China from a Third World Country four decades ago to its status today is simple “breathtaking.”
Mrs. Arroyo said as an original member of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU) during the late 70s, she has always visited China and saw for herself the developments that took place. She is currently Chairman of the decades-old APCU.
The former president said the Philippines could learn from China's experience in long-term planning and its dedicate to implement what has been planned for the country's sake instead of personal gains.
She remembers fondly her speech before the Boao Forum for Asia some 11 years ago where she called on her fellow leaders to work together and achieve first world status that should be compatible with sustainable development.
“I said during my speech in 2007 that India and China will move up and that ASEAN integration would be a success with China, India and Japan,” the former president said.
She recalled her participation in a panel dsicussion with high-tech icon Bill Gates, then Pakistani president and former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, a co-founder of the Boao Forum for Asia.
“China has been very much involved in economic integration not only with ASEAN but worldwide,” she explained as she referred to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which has great potential for trade and investment integration.
She also mentioned the importance of the recently-launched Belt and Road Initiative.
“RCEP provides the software while the Belt and Road provides the hardware,” she added.
Former President Arroyo said businessmen and other leaders who cannot be accommodated with the presidential party tried to join her entourage to Boao.
On the importance of the annual event in Hainan Province, Deputy Speaker Arroyo said the Boao Forum for Asis provides political, business, social leaders and the members of the Academe to step back from the daily grind in their respective realms and consider and discuss long-term issues.
With Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to address the event, former President Arroyo said Mr. Duterte's approach to China “is very similar to my approach during my presidency,” which was founded on mutual benefit.
She credited former President Fidel V. Ramos, a founding father of the Forum which generated deep cooperation among countries.
Mrs. Arroyo looks forward to President Xi Jinping's speech this week to further “discuss Socialism with Chinese characteristics” which she also believes to be beneficial to the Philippines and the region.
“Some 40 years ago, as China began to awaken, many in the Philippines were concerned China would be a rival in trade and investment among others but China became a partner, a market and a donor being a source of both capital and technology,” Mrs. Arroyo said.
She added the Philipines stands to benefit from its partnership with China because the former lacks capital and technology.
The good relations between China and the Philippines was further developed when President Ramos assumed power in 1992. Mrs. Arroyo said she further improved the ties as what current President Duterte is doing these days.
When asked of her projections on the Philippines-China relations even after President Duterte steps down from power, Mrs. Arroyo said “it is unlikely to be reversed.” (Melo M. Acuna)