Russia should offer competitive rates compared with those carried by China’s sovereign funding assistance to the Philippines as Manila and Moscow also explore areas of closer cooperation, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.
Sharing Moscow’s desire to strengthen bilateral ties, the Duterte administration has opened the Philippines’ foreign policy to welcome Russian business and pursue greater economic cooperation between the two countries, just as it is doing with China.
“If Russia lowers its interest rates to be competitive with China’s financing arrangement, which is between 2 percent and 3 percent, then [we can have a sovereign agreement with them],” NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia said over the weekend.
So far, only private Russian firms have made moves to invest in the Philippines.
The Russian government has cited building steel bridges and railways as one of the areas in which the two countries could cooperate.
However, Pernia said Russia offers only commercial terms.
“They do not have ODA [official development assistance]. No sovereign arrangements,” Pernia said, referring
to talks he had with visiting Russian businessmen on the sidelines of their business mission in the country two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, Russian firms are welcome to participate in the development of Philippine infrastructure even without any government-to-government arrangements between the two countries, he said.
NEDA Undersecretary Rolando Tungpalan added: They could bid as suppliers for the approved projects.
During the Russia business mission in Manila from March 13 to 17, Russian companies identified infrastructure, energy and security as areas of investment they can explore with their counterparts in the Philippines.
Victor Sumsky, director at the Asean Center in Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), had told The Manila Times, “In the immediate perspective, infrastructure, energy and security were identified as priorities.”
Sumsky said the business mission came in response to the outcome of the meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Valdimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in Lima, Peru in November last year.
The Russian delegation includes six companies representing Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Kurgan, and specializing in engineering/energy, the creation of modern infrastructure (in particular, bridges), the design of new ports and modernization of the existing ones, the production of advanced scanning equipment for customs inspection and security checks, and the production and launching of micro-satellites for earth remote sensing.
The business mission was an attempt to build relations at a practical level by identifying Philippine companies, individuals and government institutions to interact with Russia, and eventually strengthen that partnership.
Among the infrastructure projects discussed were the construction of 13 new bridges across the Pasig River; construction of bridges that will link the Manila Bay shore with Corregidor Island; and the bridges that will connect the islands of Panay, Guimaras, Negros and Cebu.