Is Duterte the guy to get China’s assistance pouring into the country?

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

MAURO GIA SAMONTE

The question is raised because, on the one hand, Duterte does appear dead serious in making a turnaround from the US to China in a host of concerns for building alliances, and, on the other hand, suggestions are rife that for finally pushing Philippine economic development, Duterte must now begin seizing opportunities offered by China for the purpose through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as cooperative ventures with Chinese business companies… And Duterte, in the course of his apparently intensifying enmity with Obama, has expressed strong inclination toward China.

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The Wall Street Journal quotes Duterte as saying, “Only China will help us. America just gave you principles of law and nothing else.”

Undoubtedly, Duterte’s is a sound statement. China is the fountainhead of AIIB, a multilateral development bank founded last year by 57 members, the Philippines being the last signatory, though the Senate has yet to ratify it.

Being then a founding member of AIIB, the Philippines is in a good position to influence its decisions, particularly on the grant of loans. As of June 2016, such loans amounting to $509 million have been granted for power, housing and transport projects of only four countries, namely, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Tarjikistan. The bank has a starting capital of $100 billion, which is two-thirds that of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and half of that of the World Bank. This means that as things stand at AIIB, so much is available for the Philippines to pursue its developmental plans not only for a short period but over the long term as well.

The latest data from the ADB places the financial needs of the Philippines at $127.1 billion for its manifold developmental projects for the decade. AIIB loans can very well fill in funding gaps in projects in infrastructure, transport system, tourism and industry. The rest of the needed financing can be sourced through joint ventures and such other cooperative schemes as Chinese companies have done with countries like Vietnam and Thailand in Asean, and Uganda and Namibia in Africa. In the latter region, China is currently implementing a “one company, one village” program covering 100 villages, with focus on agriculture, particularly improved rice farming and the development of inland fisheries.

Just to give us an idea of how much wonder can Duterte do the Filipinos in cooperating with China, here is the example of Vietnam. In tourism, for the first half of 2016, it recorded 1.2 million Chinese tourist arrivals. Compare this with the Philippine figure of 300,000, the discrepancy is exceedingly big, yet this Philippine performance represents a 100 percent increase from the previous period. This shows that the country has been lacking much effort in this area. And yet, tourism is one industry that has the biggest potential for gain because of its low cost.

How much gain? Take Thailand now for an example. It is currently eyeing 10 million Chinese tourist arrivals this year, up from the 8 million it drew in last year. Those 8 million Chinese tourist arrivals netted $10.3 billion for the Chinese economy. If this were to take place in the Philippines, in tourism alone China can well provide the country with financing needs for its developmental projects for the next decade.

China’s cooperative ventures with Asean countries in all facets of industrialization have resulted in the establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones all over the region, like the Morowali Tsingshan Industrial Park in Indonesia, Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone in Cambodia, Malaysia-China Kuautan Industrial Park, Thai Chinese Rayong Industrial Zone, Tagaung Taung Nickel Mine in Myanmar, and Saysettha Development Zone in Laos.

It is said that a consuming obsession of Duterte is the construction of his dream railway system consisting of a circumferential railway circling Mindanao, joined up with a trans-archipelago railway starting from the tip of Northern Luzon. Not a bad idea for one who got himself cussing Pope Francis for the traffic jam the latter caused during his visit to the Philippines. With China’s assistance, Duterte’s obsession can be a reality. China now boasts the world’s longest HSR (high speed rail) system, which traverses a distance of 20,000 kilometers. Construction of the HSR was undertaken under technology transfer agreements with renowned train makers Alston, Siemens, Bombardier, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

From its rich experience in building its HSR, China has gained technological expertise that should make it the best-equipped for undertaking a much-needed railway network that can finally solve the perennial traffic problem in Metro Manila. But of course, that would subject Duterte to so much self-restraint in his habitual “f***k yous.” Bad habits are hard to kill, true. But with such a railway system in place, no more traffic jams will clog the streets, not even when, say, 10 popes come avisiting the Philippines all at the same time. Imagine Duterte’s agony at not being able to blurt out, “Putanginang mga Papa. Umuwi na kayo.”

As things stand now in China’s enormous potential investment in developing Asean economies, the Philippines is at the cellar. Here are figures in this regard from the Philippines-Asia Institute for Strategic Studies (PAISS). In descending order, China’s investment in the Asean region is as follows (in million dollars): Singapore, 4,963; Laos, 1,357; Indonesia, 1,328; Thailand, 443; Malaysia, 408; Vietnam, 323; Myanmar, 206; Philippines, 24.
In my recent visit to Shanghai, I simply marveled at the immensity of the development the metropolis has undertaken since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over the mainland in 1949. That was the time when you would see a common sign on imperialist restaurants entrances: “Dogs and Chinese not allowed.” Now Shanghai gloats over its glory as the largest commercial center of China, its people, all 24 million of them, a picture of humanity happily at peace with their freedom as much as with their prosperity. Shanghai’s skyline is a magnificent seascape of skyscrapers like so many Chinese chins tilted upward to the sky in pride.

Shanghai is the paradigm of Chinese growth in every aspect of happy, civilized, humane living that has made want and suffering of its citizens forever a thing of the past. This is the kind of living that Filipinos would aspire for in their times of need and misery and social uncertainty. And it’s all there virtually for our taking. China has truly grown into a caring, doting big brother now offering to share his bounty with his Asean brothers, as the figures above would attest to. Problem is, as the figures show, the Philippines continues to content itself with morsels of the Chinese pie.

About time we took a truly big bite, too, like Singapore perhaps. All it seems to need really is for Duterte to push through his visit to China, scheduled for Oct. 19, 2016, according to an earlier announcement. Such a visit is expected to set the tone for realizing finally the Philippine President’s now much-ballyhooed pivot toward America’s arch-deterrent for world hegemony.

The only questions remaining yet unanswered are two:

First, I recall somebody telling a story that at the 2014 East Asia Summit in Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the rounds of the participating heads of state, shaking their hands – but for one, President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who, it is said, refused to return the courtesy gesture. Jinping was heard remarking later, “I will wait for the next Philippine President.” So the question here is: “Is Duterte the next Philippine President President Xi Jinping is waiting for?”

Granting Duterte is that President, the second question inevitably arises: Will the US let him do the pivot?
Your guess is not as good as mine. I don’t guess. My say: US won’t.

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16 Comments

  1. Your last remark “Granting Duterte is that President, the second question inevitably arises: Will the US let him do the pivot? Your guess is not as good as mine. I don’t guess. My say: US won’t.” is most telling.

    The reality is that an unstable and impoverished Philippines serves American interests.

    Filipinos must ponder this question: Why does the Philippines continue to be insurgency-plagued and
    poor after so many decades of being an American ally?

    Please don’t dawdle. Get out of the doldrums. Do the needful to uplift the Philippines to the level of socio-economic development that it deserves and is capable of achieving.

  2. Co-prosperity with China. Kick out the American. Shanghai a model city, let’s have one.

  3. Frank A. Tucker on

    Perhaps Pres. Duterte can or even will get assistance from China to pour in, but at what COST ?

    China’s ONLY allies are their puppets !

  4. You know guys, I am not impressed by this short story of Mr. Mauro. I lived in China and I know the condition of Chinese workers in Chinas’ manufacturing. Workers in Chinese manufacturing earn a salary of three hundred Yuan a month. Three hundred Yuan is might be P1,500.00 in Philippine money. Why does the salary is too small? It is meant that way for the Chinese government make more money. If we were only to look at the many beautiful buildings and infrastructures in China without looking what were at the back of its progress, we would be enchanted on high. But if you had seen the other side of the story of China’s progress from the ordinary folks who worked so hard but ended up empty at the end of the month, you would have to cry on high too at the end of the month.

  5. This article can be summed up this way: “Let us sell our soul and principle to the Chinese”. I would have praised this article if there was a part of it that said “but even if we accept these loans, aids, and investment from China, we should set aside our fight to regain back our territorial and economic rights in the disputed territories.

  6. Whatever is wrong will go wrong. Our ship is going on wrong direction, why not steer it to the right direction. Our Peso is starting to crumble. Would you like it to spiral down in value. More headache to poor people.

  7. Galo Felipe Zapatos on

    Many are just too concern about politics, international politics or national, which has limited our outlook about economic development. We have centered our mindset towards the west in this regard. But let us look at Australia. Australia and uncle Sam are the best of friends. But again, the biggest foreign investor in Australia is not the west, nor Japan, or the European countries, but surprise of surprise, it is China! Why can’t we copy Australia?

  8. Ignacio Balbutin on

    President Duterte should remember that it is the Chinese who is the largest violators of human rights. It does not hesitate to kill its own innocent civilians if the citizens protested against the government. What I suggest is be friends with everybody like any other Asean countries.. Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Burma etc. are friends with both China and the US and the western countries. We need tourist from all over the world not only China. However if China only help the Philippines if it pivot out of the US and western countries then we are the real losers of the game. Just remember the millions of OFWs in the US and western countries whose remittances are bouying up the Philippine economy.

  9. Good luck with China. The country that literally crushed citizens to death in Tianamen Square with tanks because they clamored for democracy, jailed parents who complained because their children died in poorly inspected school buildings that collapsed, and continues to block its people from viewing anything on the internet that speaks the truth about the ruling Communist Party. Sure, China will make a great partner.

  10. Kale Alaskador on

    Be wary of the Chinese! The Chinese abused our natural resources in connivance with local government officials. What more when we start asking or begging favors from China?

    We can be nationalistic without selling out to China and adopting the communist ideology.

  11. Higop na Higop sir, NO to CHINA, ang pinaka maraming kaso ng human rights at pinaka corrupt na bansa sunod lang tayo

  12. As just as many clamors by many people from the past either by the nationalists or liberals of Philippine society and by the common people who had dreamed together of the nation to develop our own technology, so that we could have produced our own means of production for our laborers to work, we would haved made back their clamors again by dropping off our dream, aspiration and acceleration of momentous of our peoples’ skills and expertise by Mr. President DU30 dealing with China to build railway in Mindanao or anywhere in Philippines. Last month, we just have seen our newly owned developed Train that was made by our own Engineers who made it from the scratch of Philippine based materials. Why not spend more money on it? The Train made by our Engineers was made too good and nice; it did not take our Engineers too long to make that Train, and it works and runs well. Why not concentrate on that ElectronicTrain and develop it for mass production? We have to put our money where the mouths are of our people. Where is the Bayan Spirit of our President DU30? We have been clamoring for many years why Philippine has been very much lagged behind from Japan and other Asian countries despites of an educated population and over-supplied of Engineers, but why? Have we ever thought about that? Why not put more money to DOST to develop that train that is already moving and running? Develop it to run in Manila areas to the entire Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao and to the world! We are back to zero again by that move of Mr. President DU30 to get China’s train in our railways. I repeat: Where is Mr. President Bayan Spirit, as he is a member of Bayan, he said. Who are his advisers? The President DU30 can help many people to have work and have their food in their table on the end of the day, if he would prioritize that Electronic Train or whatever Train that is developed by our skilled Enginners.

    • I agree. we lack vision and nationalism that’s why. Duterte nationalism is more on communism. he better calm down his mouth or he is going down hill especially if the economy does poor next year. lets see.

    • Ang gulo ng english mo man. Ang haba ng comment mo di naman maintimdihan ang main point mo. Go get some english ptoficiency classes and rewrite your comments will ya.