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Philippine leader flies to China
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 30, 2011

Philippine President Benigno Aquino flew to China late Tuesday, aides said, on a mission to secure billions of dollars in business deals as the two sides look to move beyond a territorial row.

The state visit features talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the signing of trade, economic and other accords, and meetings with businessmen in Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen city, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said.

"The primary objective of the Presidents visit is to further strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, especially in the aspect of trade and commerce," he said in a statement issued before Aquino's departure.

"President Aquino will be meeting Chinese businessmen and economic policy-makers, and given the potential of both our economies, we hope to close investment deals that will be beneficial for all those involved."

Aquino's chartered Philippine Airlines flight took off at 6:14pm (1014 GMT), Manila airport officials said.

The visit, which ends Saturday, comes against the backdrop of increasingly strident Philippine accusations of Chinese aggression and bullying in their dispute over competing claims to parts of the South China Sea.

Aquino's aides said he would raise the sensitive issue in his meetings with China's leaders, including Hu, but his main focus would be on improving economic ties.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Cristina Ortega announced last week that Manila hopes to sign a five-year economic plan that would target $60 billion in two-way trade in 2016, a six-fold rise from 2010.

China, with an eye on the Philippines' vast and mostly untapped natural resources, has also signalled it does not want the maritime tensions to derail a flourishing economic partnership.

China has scoured the world in recent years for all kinds of natural resources to fuel its fast-developing economy and provide the raw materials for its phenomenal manufacturing sector.

Despite an untapped mineral wealth estimated at more than $840 billion however, the Philippines has so far not clinched the kinds of huge resource contracts that China has forged with other resource-rich nations.

Philippine officials have also said they will be seeking Chinese investment in a raft of infrastructure projects, from rail to roads, airports and schools.

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