Honorable Francisco Benedicto, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs,
Honorable Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Governor of Ilocos Norte Province,
Honorable Michael Farinas, Mayor of Laog City,
Honorable Congresswoman Imee Marcos,
Honorable Congressman Roque Ablan,
Honorable Calderon, Chief of PNP,
Madame Imelda Marcos,
Respectable Governors and Mayors from other Provinces and Cities,
Distinguished representatives from the Filipino-Chinese Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening! Today marks a memorable day in the history of China-Philippine friendly relations. The consulate of China in Laoag, the 3rd diplomatic institution established by the Chinese government in the Philippines, is officially open today, showing the further enhancement and development of our bilateral relations. First of all, please allow me, on behalf of the Chinese Government, to extend my congratulations to the opening of the Consulate. Taking this opportunity, I would also like to extend my warmest welcome and sincerest gratitude to all the distinguished guests present.
China and the Philippines are close neighbors separated by only a narrow strip of water, and two peoples enjoy long-standing traditional friendship, in which Provinces like Ilocos Norte in the northern part of the Philippines, only one-step away from Chinese mainland and Taiwan Island, play a very important role. Long before the coming of the Spaniards, lots of Chinese crossed the sea here to undertake trade and cultural exchanges. Many of them settled down and got married with the local people, integrating into the multi-national Philippine family who are industrious, brave and warm-hearted. In 1975, President Marcos, a great man from Ilocos Norte province, and Madame Imelda opened the door of China-Philippine diplomatic ties, leaving the much-told stories in our relations. In recent years, China-Philippine relations maintain the good momentum of all-round deepening and developing. The ties between China and the Northern Philippines have become even closer. With the greater expansion of People-to-people exchanges as well as trade and economic cooperation, the Northern Philippines have played an increasingly outstanding role in the China-Philippine relations.
In 2005, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a successful state visit to the Philippines, and reached consensus with President Arroyo on building strategic cooperative relations for peace and development between our countries. The official visit of Premier Wen Jiabao last January pushed again China-Philippine relations to a higher stage. Under this background, the exchanges and cooperation between China and the Northern Philippines have achieved remarkable progress, enjoying the vast potential and broad prospects. More and more Chinese people, attracted by the picturesque landscape, abundant natural resources and hospitable people here, have come for sightseeing, study, business and investment. According to statistics, the number of tourists from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan accounts for 80% of the total foreign tourists to Laoag, constituting the major driving-force for local economy. It takes only around one hour from Laoag to Chinese cities like Guang Zhou and Kaohsiung by direct flights, even more convenient than Chinese domestic tour. It is beyond any question that Laoag has become the gateway for China-Philippine exchanges and cooperation.
Based on the foresaid reasons, Chinese government made the decision to establish a consulate here in Laoag, covering 15 provinces including Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mt Province. Since then, Chinese government has been making the active preparations. Thanks to the personal care of Governor Marcos and Mayor Farinas as well as the enthusiastic help of many friends, the Consulate can finally be launched now.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The Consulate in Laoag is the second consulate established by China in the Philippines, and also the first foreign consulate in this city. This is the full manifestation of what an importance place Northern Philippine provinces hold in the China-Philippine relations, and will surely further promote the economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between two sides. First, the establishment of the consulate will send a strong positive signal to Chinese people, especially businessmen for investment. Second, the consulate will provide timely and effective consular protection and service for Chinese compatriots so as to make them enjoy easy traveling and satisfied accommodation. Third, the consulate will be the bridge connecting the local government, Chinese immigrants and friends from all circles, as well as the bridge of communication and cooperation between China and the northern part of the Philippines.
At the end of last year, Chinese government appointed Mr. Chen Laiping the first Chief Consul to Laoag. Mr. Chen has rich experience on diplomatic arena. He used to work in the Department of Consular Affairs of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( namely MFA), Visa Office of MFA in Hong Kong, the Department of General Affairs of MFA and the Chinese embassy in UK. What I want to mention in particular is that Mr. Chen has been working in the Consulate General of China in Cebu for two years from 1995 to 1997. I am convinced that under his able leadership, the consulate of China in Laoag will surely provide the high-quality consular service and propel the cooperation between our two sides in an all-round way.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
At such a historic moment, I feel very excited as all of you. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the government of Ilocos Norte province, Laoag city, San Nicolas municipality and the government of every province within the consular region of the Consulate as well as Filipino-Chinese and all friends from different circles for your support to the preparation of the establishment of the consulate. I sincerely hope that you will continue to support the operation of the consulate and the development of China-Philippine relations. It is also my wish that we will make concerted efforts, hand in hand, to jointly push the strategic and cooperative bilateral relations which is at the golden age to a new high.
Last but not the least, I would like to propose a toast,
To the prosperity and development of China and the Philippines!
To the everlasting China-Philippine friendship,
To the health of all of you present,
Now I have to honor to declare officially the Consulate of the People's Republic of China in Laoag open!