THE Philippines’ participation in China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is a good move as it would place the country on the path of trade expansion and infrastructure investments envisioned by Beijing’s ambitious buildup plan, an analyst said.
Beijing bypassed the Philippines in its “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) plan in 2014 after the administration of then president Benigno Aquino 3rd sued China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pursued a less confrontational stance, relations have normalized, and Duterte was among 29 world leaders invited by Beijing on Sunday to a two-day summit for the Belt and Road plan, which could see China investing as much as $900 billion across the continent.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said the Duterte government made a good choice because the Philippines would be left behind if it passed up the opportunity for increased Chinese investments.
Casiple noted that the OBOR is an ambitious undertaking connecting China directly to European markets. The Philippines will benefit from having a direct route for exports to and imports from China, he said.
Manila, meanwhile, can draw funds from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Beijing-led multilateral lending institution.
“I think the President sees that it would benefit the country and since we are also set to take on major infrastructure projects, cheap credit and easier trade can really help in our economic growth,” Casiple said.
Casiple noted that Aquino had faced pressure against gravitating toward Beijing from China’s chief rival, the United States.
But “the world is transitioning form a uni-polar to a multi-power world wherein there are many powers contending with each other,” he explained.
“That is the context and the Philippines would definitely be left out if we will not join OBOR,” he added.
In a statement, Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said
the Duterte government’s move could boost infrastructure development in the Philippines.
“China’s Belt and Road initiative is poised to create exciting international trade opportunities for participating countries. This will open new doors for the Philippines, giving us the chance to enter new markets and foster more meaningful trade relations with countries outside of our normal sphere of influence,” Gatchalian said.
The Belt and Road initiative is a mammoth trade and commerce plan launched by the Chinese government to stimulate economic growth and development across Asia and beyond through the construction of a sophisticated network of infrastructure in participating countries.
It is being promoted by the Chinese as the modern version of the fabled “Silk Road,” which facilitated the early globalization of trade centuries ago.
Gatchalian said China’s initiative could help the Philippines achieve its long-term socioeconomic vision and complement the Duterte administration’s big-ticket infrastructure projects including a subway system in Metro Manila and railway system in Mindanao.
An article published by the Global Times By Yang Sheng said the Belt and Road initiative will contribute significant solutions for security problems between participants, building new-type diplomatic relations based on win-win cooperation, experts said.
It said that leaders and representatives from countries like Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, with whom China has experienced disputes and friction, still joined the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation which is being held in Beijing from Sunday to Monday.
“The Belt and Road initiative focuses on economic and trade issues, so it’s very easy for countries to find and increase common interests. Disputes between them will be laid aside, and this is an effective measure to shift relations with neighbors from tensions into cooperation,” Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Sunday.