CHINA and the Philippines agreed to launch three priority projects this year, the documents of which were signed during the 28th Philippines-China Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC) on Tuesday.
“The three priority projects have been identified, mainly the Chico River Pump Irrigation project worth $53.9 million, the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project worth $374 million and the North-South railway-South Line worth $3 billion,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said in a press conference.
“Timeline to launch the two projects? By the first semester or first half of this year and the North-South Railway we will try to launch by the end of this year,” Minister of Commerce (Mofcom) Director General Wu Zhengping said.
At this point, the Chinese government has not set of companies that will handle the projects and the contracts, Wu noted.
At the same even on Tuesday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez met newly-appointed Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan.
Lopez welcomed Zhong on his first official trip as the top official of China’s Mofcom.
“We foresee a more meaningful engagement with our good neighbor in the coming years as we work with renewed vigor toward a deepened and strengthened cooperation based on mutual values, goals and results,” Lopez said.
They agreed on important initiatives toward improving overall levels of trade and investment between the two countries.
Foremost is the Six-Year Development Program for Economic and Trade Cooperation (SYDP) as the overall framework on economic relations from 2017 to 2022. The SYDP was endorsed by the JCETC for signing during the visit of a high-level delegation from China later this month.
A list of priority infrastructure projects to be funded by China was also taken up. Both sides encouraged the private sector to take part in infrastructure projects, industrial parks development, cross border e-commerce, big data analytics, creative industries, electric vehicles, iron and steel, manufacturing, testing facilities, irradiation facilities and export promotion.
The meeting also positively noted the five letters of intent (LOI) for potential private sector investments from China, particularly in oil downstream projects, aviation industry, waste-to-energy through gasification, ship building, ship repair and integrated steel manufacturing.
“We are pleased that government efforts are moving in parallel with opportunities being opened for the private sector to come in, as demonstrated by the signing of the LoIs last week, showing a shift to more innovative and high technology manufacturing,” Lopez said.
Tourism arrivals from China to the Philippines reached 675,663 in 2016, the Cabinet official noted.
The JCETC is the official bilateral mechanism for discussion of trade, inves tments and economic cooperation and was convened at the ministerial level in support of high-level policy pronouncements on strengthened bilateral ties.
It was convened after a five-year hiatus, and serves as a quick follow through of President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China in October 2016 that led to positive strides toward renewed bilateral relations.
Lopez said “the re-activation of the JCETC mechanism coincides with our celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China and marks a milestone in our bilateral relations. As we embark on renewed ties, it is imperative that we look back and recall that, in truth, the ties of friendship between us were never completely severed and continues to this day.”
China is the Philippines’ second major trading partner, fourth largest export market and biggest import supplier in 2015. It is also the 14th top source of Investment Promotion Agency-approved investments to the Philippines in the same year.