Ranking Chinese officials pledged their full support for the immediate implementation of the proposed projects presented by a high-level delegation from Manila for possible financing by Beijing under the Duterte presidency during the latter’s recent two-day mission to China.
Meeting with the Philippine delegation led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III last January 23, China Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said the Chinese government “would like to continue to enhance the mutual trust and understanding with our Filipino colleagues in order to further expand and deepen our practical cooperation.”
Gao also said China seeks a “healthy and stable development” of bilateral relations that will benefit both countries and their people.
On the proposed projects the Dominguez-led delegation presented, Gao said, “I absolutely agree with the proposals of all the ministers. We two countries need to strengthen our cooperation.”
Gao said China “attaches great importance” to the list of priority projects the Philippine delegation submitted.
Dominguez, for his part, pointed out that what the two countries have jointly undertaken, in less than four months since President Duterte’s China visit, “reaffirms our strong commitment to pursue long-term,
comprehensive, stable and cooperative relationship with China grounded on mutual respect, sincerity, equality, and mutual benefit for the advancement of peace, security, and prosperity of our two countries.”
In the meeting, the Filipino and Chinese officials also agreed to reconvene the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC) this month to ensure close coordination and further promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Gao and the other Chinese officials present during the meeting in Beijing agreed with the Philippine delegation on the urgency of implementing the projects that Manila has proposed to Beijing for possible financing.
Both sides also agreed on the importance of “openness and transparency” in the ongoing talks on the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that were sealed last year during President Duterte’s Oct. 18-21 state visit to Beijing as well as in the implementation stage of the projects that China would eventually underwrite.
The Philippine delegation submitted a total of 40 large and small infrastructure projects to China. Of this number, 15 are being proposed for loan financing while 25 were submitted for feasibility study support.
Three of these large-scale projects are worth $3.4 billion combined. These are the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga with an estimated total project cost of $53.6 million; the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon, $374.03 million; and the South Line of the North-South Railway running from Manila to Legaspi City in Bicol, $3.01billion.
Nine other projects, which aim to interconnect the country’s three main island-groups, boost tourism, and construct a flood control system in Mindanao and ensure its stable power supply, were also presented by the Philippine team to Gao for feasibility study support.
Dominguez said the other projects on the list are relatively small in scale, and are easier to implement, such as the construction of bridges across the Pasig River to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Dominguez, who described the meetings with Chinese officials as “very positive” said the Philippine mission was a “productive first step towards achieving the desire of President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in further reinforcing ties between the two countries.”
He said the generous assistance China offered to the Philippines is among the concrete results of the President’s foreign policy re-balancing toward accelerated integration with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and its major Asian trading partners China, Japan and South Korea.
Amid global uncertainty over a possible overhaul of US trade policies under the new presidency of Donald Trump, it was a “very smart” move by President Duterte to recalibrate the Philippines’ foreign policy early on and reorient the economy toward greater integration with its Asian neighbors, Dominguez said.
“It makes more sense for us to be closer to our Asian neighbors than to our distant friends,” Dominguez said.