MOUs on railways, roads, airports, telecoms signed during Duterte trip
The Philippine government’s ambitious P7 trillion infrastructure plan for the next six years received a huge boost from President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China last week, with the two countries signing major deals on roads, rails, airports, seaports, and telecommunications projects.
Malacañang said the agreements were part of the $24 billion loans and investment pledges the government received from China.
“The country’s business leaders have long called for bold solutions and swift improvement of the country’s infrastructure and transport network,” the Palace said in a statement on Monday. “It is hoped that the President’s state visit to China will be the catalyst to making all these plans a reality.”
These memoranda of understanding include the construction of mega bridge projects connecting Luzon to Visayas; major rail systems, including the proposed Mindanao Railway System and the Manila to Clark and Clark to Subic cargo and passenger railroads, it said.
Projects to rehabilitate airports and seaports in various parts of the country, such as those in Zamboanga, Dumaguete, Tacloban, Cebu and Davao, were also part of the agreements, the statement said.
Also signed were four MOUs that will develop a rapid bus transit system connecting Fort Bonifacio to NAIA, and construct a railway system and industrial park inside Clark Green City. Another deal to improve the telecom network in the proposed Clark Green City and Fort Bonifacio was also signed.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Dioko said earlier the government will raise its infrastructure budget from the equivalent of about 5.2 percent of GDP next year to as much as 7 percent of GDP in 2022.
But some analysts, such as Justino Calaycay, research head of A&A Securities, expressed reservations about these deals, especially since they were signed amid the West Philippine Sea controversy.
“The questions arise, however, as to how this plays into the West Philippine Sea issue. If and when the President brings the Hague decision on the table, will China be as “generous” as they are now? If the Philippines did not express in no uncertain terms its “separation” from the US, would $24 billion be $24 billion?” Calaycay said in an interview.
“These aside, however, it’s all good and should translate to an added boost to our GDP moving forward.”
Calaycay said there could be some “strings attached” to these transactions.
“I doubt, however, that there are no strings attached to this aid. Any time and any one extends help, there are strings attached at the very least, to make sure the money and investment is disbursed and used for its intended purpose. If there is no quid pro quo, as some doubt, all the better,” Calaycay added.
Businessmen have placed the country’s lack of infrastructure facilities, including the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, as among their top concerns.