PH, China firm up 30 projects worth $3.7B
China and the Philippines have agreed to cooperate on 30 projects worth $3.7 billion focusing on poverty reduction, the two countries announced after a meeting in Beijing on Monday.
Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng announced the agreement without giving details, saying it involved an “initial batch” of projects that still needed to be finalized and paperwork still needed to be processed by the banks involved.
In a statement from Beijing, Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez mentioned irrigation systems, hydroelectric power plants and railways, details of which, he said, would be fleshed out with Chinese officials during two days of meetings that end on Tuesday.
The deal is the first announcement from a two-day visit of a Philippine Cabinet delegation to China that comes three months after President Duterte visited Beijing to clear the way for new commercial alliances.
China has welcomed Mr. Duterte’s foreign policy shift away from the United States and toward doing more regional deals for loans and business under his “pro-Filipino” policy.
Relations between the Philippines and China “fully recovered” after Mr. Duterte’s visit, and “China supports President Duterte to lead the Philippines people in developing their economy,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Monday.
Hua was referring to Mr. Duterte’s fence-mending after relations between China and the Philippines were frayed by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea that Beijing lost to Manila in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year.
After taking office in June last year, Mr. Duterte deferred assertion of the court’s ruling to ease tensions between the two countries and improve relations.
Chinese officials pledged $15 billion of investment to Manila during Mr. Duterte’s visit to Beijing in October last year, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).
Asked by reporters in Beijing whether US President Donald Trump’s economic policies would affect commercial ties between China and the Philippines, Dominguez said: “It’s better to be with good friends.”
“I’m not sure at this moment exactly what the new US policies [are], but I believe that the reorientation of our President to our neighbors really was very smart,” he said.
The Philippine delegation was scheduled to meet Vice Premier Wang Yang at Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex that houses China’s central government, later on Monday.
In his statement released by the DOF, Dominguez said he had a “very productive” meeting with Gao and that they had discussed large projects in rural areas, as well as some smaller projects.
“This will be our second discussion [with Chinese officials about the projects] since November last year. We hope that [during] our visit here, we [will] be able to proceed with the projects that are ready to be implemented,” Dominguez said.
“We submitted last November a list of projects to the Chinese government through the Chinese Embassy in Manila for their review. The Philippine team would like to get their reactions and determine what their priorities are and see whether this also match our priorities,” he said.
Dominguez said “the generous assistance offered by China to the Philippines is among the concrete results of the President’s foreign policy rebalancing toward accelerated integration with [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and its major Asian trading partners China, Japan and South Korea.”
“The President has recognized the importance of China in the region and he has redirected our economy more toward China and the Asean than to the West,” he said.
“I believe that China will continue to lead the world and continue to lead the Asean in becoming the engine of global growth,” he added.
The Philippine delegation includes Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
Besides meetings with Gao and Wang, the Philippine delegation will also meet Vice Chair Wang Xiaotao of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s chief planning and strategy agency.
The Filipino officials also plan to meet top executives of China Investment Corp., a sovereign wealth fund.
“The meetings will cover discussions on the government-to-government projects signed between the Philippines and China, the proposed projects for financing and feasibility studies, the chairmanship of the Philippines this year of the Asean, and matters concerning the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Philippines’ flagship infrastructure projects,” the DOF said in a statement.
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