Cagayan Governor Offers to Strengthen Philippines-China Relations

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Amidst the ongoing tension between Manila and Beijing over a maritime dispute, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has made a significant gesture by offering his province as a bridge to promote friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and China. This offer was made during his meeting with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong in Fuzhou City, located in China’s Fujian Province. The meeting took place during the opening ceremony of the 2024 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Year of People-to-People Exchanges on February 2.

During their discussion, Governor Mamba emphasized the importance of resolving differences between the Philippines and China through dialogue, while jointly safeguarding regional peace and stability. The two countries have been locked in a territorial dispute over parts of the South China Sea, referred to by Manila as the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Governor Mamba highlighted that Cagayan, being the closest Philippine province to China, offers vast potential for cooperation in various fields, particularly in agriculture. He expressed his view that China is an economic partner and emphasized this during his talks with China’s Assistant Foreign Minister. This sentiment was reiterated during a dinner hosted by the head of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Fujian Provincial People’s Government.

Governor Mamba also addressed the concerns regarding the establishment of military facilities in Cagayan under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States. He expressed his opposition to this move, as it has caused tensions in the region. However, he acknowledged that the decision to set up these facilities was not within his jurisdiction. Despite this, Governor Mamba emphasized the importance of maintaining peaceful relations with neighboring countries.

The people of Cagayan hold China in high regard, considering it a “big brother.” Governor Mamba expressed gratitude for China’s assistance during times of calamities, as the province has experienced the devastating impact of three super typhoons. He acknowledged the growth and progress China has achieved and expressed the desire to strengthen the connection between Cagayan and China. Governor Mamba mentioned the reopening of the Port of Aparri, which serves as Cagayan’s gateway to the world. With the help of China, the port is being dredged to accommodate larger ships for commercial and industrial transshipment, which will boost economic activity in the region.

Governor Mamba also highlighted the potential for joint ventures between Cagayan and China in agriculture, aquaculture, and tourism. He sees these partnerships as opportunities for mutual growth and development.

In response, Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong assured Governor Mamba of China’s commitment to implementing the “important common understandings” reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. This commitment signifies China’s dedication to strengthening bilateral relations and promoting cooperation between the two countries.

Governor Mamba’s offer to serve as a bridge between the Philippines and China is a significant step towards fostering friendship and cooperation amidst the ongoing tensions. It reflects his vision of peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit for both nations. By leveraging the geographical proximity and exploring opportunities for collaboration, Cagayan has the potential to contribute to the overall development and prosperity of the Philippines and China.

Source: The Manila Times

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