The Philippines should continue to pursue stronger trade ties with China despite rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, according to the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Speaking at yesterday's roadshow for the upcoming Canton Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou City in China, FFCCCII president Cecilio Pedro cited the importance of continued trade with China despite recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea.

'We have to trade with each other in spite of the West Philippine Sea. So we have to set aside our problems in the West Philippine Sea and continue trade to foster better understanding,' he said.

He said it is through trade that the Philippines and China's long-term relationship can be strengthened further.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said he shares Pedro's view that trade is a potent force for peace.

'There are grave things that are happening. We're not denying that…But because of the graveness of these issues, the challenge really is on the economic side, that we should also really be working doubly hard so that we can further enhance our economic and trade relations,' Rodolfo said.

According to Rodolfo, China is one of the Philippines' oldest and most significant trading partners.

China was the Philippines' top trading partner, second largest export market and its top import source in 2023.

'The value of bilateral trade was over $40 billion, proving the two nations' growing economic relations,' Rodolfo said.

He added that China is also one of the Philippines' most significant sources of approved foreign investments, totaling almost $3 billion from 2018 to 2023.

As the Philippines positions itself as a regional hub for sustainability, connectivity and innovation-driven manufacturing services, he said the country also continues efforts to attract investments from China in mineral processing, particularly in nickel and copper ores and concentrates, the country's major exports to China.

'And it's very important that we collaborate so that we could add more value to what we export to China,' Rodolfo said.

He is urging Philippine firms to take part in the Canton Import and Export Fair from April 15 to May 5, not just for sourcing opportunities but also to encourage Chinese firms to do business in the Philippines.

Rodolfo said Guangdong, the province hosting the Canton Fair, plays a crucial role in enhancing the Philippines and China's trade relations.

'(Guangdong) is the Philippines' largest trading partner among all provinces in China, accounting for almost one-fourth of the total trade with the Philippines and China in 2023,' Rodolfo pointed out.

Pedro said China's huge market offers export opportunities for Philippine firms.

'I know there are so many things to buy from China. But there are also so many things we can export,' he said.

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