China wants President Rodrigo Duterte granted emergency powers so that major infrastructure projects that will be funded by Beijing can immediately start and be finished before he steps down from office.
China’s Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua vowed to boost the Philippines’ infrastructure sector through “corruption-free” agreements, in his remarks during The Manila Times’ 5th Business Forum held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao on Friday.
Zhao however said China is “afraid of taking up projects” that may go beyond Duterte’s term of office.
“We must hurry. We have to get it done within the presidential term,” Zhao said, adding that a new government would bring “a lot of challenges and uncertainties.”
Without the emergency powers, big infrastructure projects may not be completed fast enough, he warned.
“We might be stuck there. I think that’s one of the top priorities as far as infrastructure projects are concerned,” Zhao said.
When Duterte visited China last year, Beijing promised a $6-billion soft loan and a $3-billion credit line to be provided by the Bank of China.
Zhao said they have already identified projects that may begin by the second half of this year.
“There is a very strong sense of urgency. We will try to make sure these projects are going to be corruption-free,” he said.
The Philippines offered 40 projects to China, 15 for financing and 25 others for assistance with feasibility studies.
Zhao said three projects may break ground this year – the Chico River Pump Irrigation project, the New Centennial Watersource project in Rizal and the North-South Railway project.
“These are the three projects we have taken in as priority projects because they are already approved by the Filipino side,” the envoy said.
The Senate has yet to pass a measure that seeks to grant Duterte extra powers. However, 14 senators have signed a committee report on the bill that will grant the President emergency powers.