In an exclusive interview by The Manila Times, Ambassador Huang answered the following questions:
Q1: The vaccine remains our strongest weapon to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, China has provided a large amount of vaccine donations and supplies to the Philippines, which has played an important role in the implementation of the Philippine national vaccination plan. Does China plan to supply more vaccines since the Philippines is currently facing a shortage of vaccines?
In the face of the rampant Covid-19 pandemic, China and the Philippines have rendered to each other by the staunch support and jointly faced the onslaught hand in hand. China attached great importance and prioritized the urgent needs of the Philippines for Covid vaccine. So far, the Philippines has received more than 25.5 million doses vaccines from China.
In order to further support the Philippine government and people to fight the pandemic, I am glad to inform you that a new batch of 1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government will arrive in Manila in two batches in the next two days. In addition, China has substantially increased the vaccine supply from this month, and is expected to deliver nearly 9 million doses of Sinovac vaccine to the Philippines in August alone. Accordingly, the total number of China's vaccine delivered to the Philippines this month is expected to reach nearly 10 million doses, which would hopefully alleviate the shortage of vaccines here. China's vaccine is not only the first Covid vaccine to arrive in the Philippines, but also become the major source of Philippine vaccination, and their safety and efficacy have increasingly earned widespread recognition and trust among the Filipinos.
Last year, at the height of China's battle with Covid-19, the Philippine government and people from all walks of life provided valued support and assistance to China. In light of the pandemic situation in the Philippines, China has also extended every help and support to the Philippines to the best of its ability. Together with our Filipino friends, many memorable "Firsts" were recorded. China was the first country to donate test kits, the first country to dispatch anti-pandemic medical expert team to the Philippines, and also the first country to issue special permit for the Philippine military air crafts and vessels to land and dock in China for the transportation of medical supplies. China's Sinovac was the first Covid vaccine to arrive in the Philippines both through government-to-government donation and commercial procurement.
China is willing to continue to strengthen practical cooperation on anti-pandemic efforts with the Philippines and provide more vaccines to the Philippines. Meanwhile, we will work together to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and the "Build, Build, Build" program, so as to accelerate the economic recovery and growth in the post-epidemic era.
Q2: More and more Filipinos see the tangible benefits brought by China-Philippines economic and trade cooperation, according to a survey released recently in the Philippines. How do you see the current momentum of China-Philippines relations, especially regarding the bilateral economic and trade cooperation?
Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and President Duterte, China and the Philippines have made concerted efforts to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19. Our bilateral practical cooperation has pressed ahead against all odds, many indicators hitting record high. The sound momentum extended and strengthened through the first half of this year, the synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and the "Build, Build, Build" program deepened still further, with major projects taken forward steadily and bearing fruit. By creating more opportunities for cooperation, we have contributed to boosting the Philippines' economic recovery, and bringing tangible benefits to increasing number of Filipinos.
Our bilateral trade has scaled new heights. In 2020, our annual bilateral trade in goods reached US$61.2 billion and kept the momentum of growth. In the first half of this year, our bilateral trade in goods topped US$37.5 billion, up by 53.5% year on year, according to the Chinese statistics. During this period, China became the Philippines' second largest export market, while remaining its largest trading partner and largest source of imports.
China's investment in the Philippines has grown rapidly. In 2020, China's direct non-financial investment in the Philippines hit US$140 million, nearly 1.4 times increase year on year. In first half, this indicator increased 2.3 times to over US$89 million.
Breakthroughs have been made in major projects invested by Chinese enterprises in the Philippines so far. For example, DITO, a flagship telecom project participated by China Telecom, with its total investment exceeds 7 billion US dollar, has so far launched commercial services in more than 100 cities including Metro Manila and acquired over 2.3 million on-net subscribers. Panhua Group's Integrated Steel Mill project, with an investment of $3.5 billion in phase I, is under construction, and is supposed to be the first integrated steel mill in the Philippines once completed. Notable Chinese investments have also flowed into the advanced manufacturing sector of the Philippines and become its important forces, such as the high-end bearing factory operated by C&U Group and the electronic components factories established by Shenzhen Grandsun and Guangzhou Bocheng.
At present, our G-to-G projects have undergone the process from planning to implementation and stepped into a new stage of harvest. More than 30 projects have been carried out in President Duterte's administration.
Specifically, 13 projects with a total value of around US$ 120 million, including the Dangerous Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers, the COVID-19 Vaccine Donation Project and E-P Bridge have been launched and completed.
8 projects are under implementation with a total financing value of over US$ 1.1 billion. Among them, Rice Donation Project and main works of both B-I Bridge and Chico River Pump Irrigation Project are expected to be completed within this year.
4 major infrastructure projects worth US$ 2.2 billion, including the Samal Island-Davao City Connector Project, have signed the commercial contracts and are under the loan negotiation.
A list of pipeline projects worth billions of US dollars are currently under the Philippine internal review and bidding process.
I believe that as we further enhance China-Philippines pragmatic cooperation, and continue to bring our G-to-G cooperation projects and China's investment projects in the Philippines to fruition, more opportunities and dividends will be generated to benefit the peoples of both countries, and contribute to economic recovery and people's livelihood in the Philippines.