MANILA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The ties that bind China and the Philippines are "very important," Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and former Philippine president, has said.
Arroyo made the remarks in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua. She spoke highly of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for continuing "very friendly" relations between the two countries.
"I think we have good momentum and I expect that we will continue to have very good relations in the future," Arroyo said at her home in Quezon City.
Arroyo said the relationship between Beijing and Manila "is very important for the Philippines for several reasons."
"One is that China is our neighbor. We should be friends with our neighbors. Second is that China is increasingly involved not only in bilateral dealings but also in ASEAN of which the Philippines is a member," she said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"Third is China is the most dynamic and fast-growing economy in the world today," she added.
Moreover, she said the Philippines has "a very vibrant Filipino-Chinese community. "It's very natural to be friends with China (and) natural to have business dealings with China," she said.
She said the Duterte government's ambitious infrastructure development projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program will benefit from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Proposed in 2013, the BRI refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.
The "Build, Build, Build" program, which was rolled out by the Duterte administration in 2017, intends to spend 8 to 9 trillion pesos (roughly 160 to 180 billion U.S. dollars) in the medium term on building roads, bridges, airports, seaports and railways in the Philippines.
Arroyo said the Philippines is already beginning to feel the impact of China's ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a transcontinental scale.
For instance, she cited bridges, dams, railroads and other projects that are being and will be financed by China. The nation-to-nation and the people-to-people relationship between the two neighboring countries continue to improve, she added.
Because of the warm relations that both countries enjoy now, she said the Philippines is enjoying more trade and investment activities with China.
"We have more investments from China coming in, and then more people-to-people exchanges are happening. The tourism sector (benefits from the warm relations) ... That's also the influence of China also being felt there," she said.
She also cited the increasing scholarship grant that the Chinese government is giving to Filipinos.
"We're even beginning to look at some opportunities for labor and employment in the services (sector). So, yes, the influence is being felt (in the Philippines)," she said.
She lauded the eagerness of Chinese investors to sink in their capital in the Philippines.
"I'm really very impressed by the enthusiasm displayed by the potential investors from China. We in the Philippine should match that enthusiasm on the implementation side. Implementation is the key," Arroyo said.