THE Philippines and China have signed agreements to conduct preliminary studies on two big-ticket infrastructure projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, the Department of Finance (DoF) said over the weekend.
The projects are part of the “Six-Year Development Program” to further strengthen trade and investment between the two countries signed in Davao City on Friday.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang made an official visit to the country for the signing.
Wang met with President Rodrigo Duterte and separately discussed with Cabinet officials, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd, the progress of cooperation between the two countries on implementing the large-scale infrastructure projects in the Philippines under Chinese grants and concessional loans.
The DoF said Dominguez and China Commerce Vice Minister Fu Ziying, who is also China’s International Trade Representative, formalized the agreement on preliminary feasibility studies for the proposed Davao City Expressway and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges Project through an exchange of letters after Friday’s meeting between Philippine and Chinese officials at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel.
“The exchange of letters will enable the dispatch of Chinese experts to conduct preliminary studies on the two projects. The grant assistance is aligned to the Memorandum of Understanding on supporting the conduct of feasibility studies of major projects signed between the Department of Finance and China’s Ministry of Commerce in October 2016,” it said.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) documents showed earlier that the bridges project in the Visayas was estimated to cost $450.34 million while the cost of the Davao City Expressway has yet to be determined.
The DoF said that in the high-level meeting with Chinese officials, led by Wang, Dominguez thanked China for its grant of assistance worth $91 million, which include a $1 million donation to the earthquake-hit province of Surigao; a $75 million grant for the construction of the Binondo-Intramuros and the Estrella-Pantaleon bridges across the Pasig river; and the ongoing $15 million financing provided under the anti-illegal drugs and law enforcement security cooperation agreement signed in October last year during President Duterte’s state visit to China.
According to the DoF, the meeting focused on three major issues: bilateral cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, trade, investments, agriculture and fisheries, and tourism; updates on the proposed infra projects for Chinese funding and ways to further enhance financing cooperation between the two countries; and regional concerns such as the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership; and the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year.
In the meeting, Wang noted that his visit to President Duterte’s home city is in “preparation for future high-level visits and to ensure that past visits will result in successful outcomes.”
Prior to his visit, a large Chinese business delegation went to Manila on a procurement mission and committed to buy more than $2 billion worth of goods from the Philippines.
He said increasing investments from China could encourage the establishment of more industrial parks in the Philippines.
The DoF noted that the Chinese side expressed the commitment to help the Philippines solve Metro Manila’s traffic woes by supporting the construction of bridges crossing the Pasig River and improve living conditions for informal settlers “by providing housing support.”
China is also eyeing the provinces of Davao and Palawan as sites for investments and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, it said.
“The Chinese side will encourage well-known agricultural companies in China to invest in and cooperate with the Philippines, and possibly explore setting-up demonstration areas to showcase advance practices in agriculture, including investments in aquaculture,” the DoF said.
China also expressed enthusiasm on the growth potentials of the country’s tourism industry and has targeted 1 million tourist arrivals from mainland China to the Philippines to help realize the goals of the Asean-China Year of Tourism, launched in Manila on March 16.
The Chinese government will “lose no time to enhance cooperation and give concrete help to the President and contribute to the development of the Philippines,” Wang was quoted as saying.
He also “expressed the willingness of the Chinese Government to provide financing through various channels on top of China EXIM Bank’s concessional and preferential buyer’s credit facilities, such as through the China Development Bank and Bank of China,” the DoF said.
The Finance department added that Wang also assured China’s support in case the Philippines will access co-financing with multilateral development banks like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Dominguez said the series of high-level dialogues between the Philippines and China, which began a few weeks after President Duterte’s state visit, “reflect our steadfast commitment to enhance cooperation between our two countries.”
Both sides also recognized the key role played by the private sector in enhancing cooperation between the two countries.
“Vice Premier Wang said that private companies should be regarded as major partners and that cooperation with the sector should be based on market rules,” the DoF said.