The Chinese Embassy in Manila said 2018 marked a "great milestone" in China-Philippines relations as it witnessed the historic visit of President Xi Jinping to Manila and the signing of landmark agreements between the two nations.
Xi visited the Philippines in November and saw the signing of 29 documents covering Beijing and Manila's functional cooperation in various fields.
During his trip, the two countries reached a consensus to upgrade their bilateral ties to a "relationship of strategic cooperation."
"Proceeding from the spirit of mutual respect, sincerity, equality, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation, our two leaders decided to upgrade our bilateral ties to a relationship of comprehensive strategic cooperation, charting a course for this great partnership," Chargé d'Affaires Tan Qingsheng said at a reception in Makati.
Tan said the blooming China-Philippines bilateral ties produced beneficial results for the latter as reflected in its trade, tourism, and employment.
China stands as the Philippines’ top trading partner. Its bilateral trade topped USD50 billion in 2017 and reached almost USD47 billion last October, representing a year-on-year increase of 11 percent.
In the past two years, China has imported more than 2 million tons of tropical fruits worth USD1.5 billion from the Philippines.
"But there’s always greater potential for us to tap on," Tan said, adding that China agreed to import fresh coconuts and frozen fruits from the Philippines last November.
With the country signing the memorandum of understanding on Cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, Tan is optimistic Manila's trade relations with China, as well as with other countries, will further flourish.
The BRI is an ambitious effort to bolster connectivity among Asia, Africa and Europe through policy coordination, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and infrastructure connectivity.
"With the signing of this MOU, our two countries will be able to breathe fresh vitality into this grand cause and bring our economic relations and trade to a new high," Tan said.
On people-to-people ties, China in 2018 emerged as the second largest tourist origin to the Philippines.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat earlier reported that 1,059,788 Chinese tourists visited the country, already surpassing the 2017 figure by 30.71 percent.
Tan, on the other hand, is optimistic the Philippines will hit its 1.5 million targeted Chinese visitors by the end of the year.
"Every week nowadays, more than 300 flights are shuttling between the cities of our two countries. The Chinese students will soon have their English teachers from the Philippines," he added.