Ranking Chinese officials have pledged their full cooperation and support for the speedy implementation of the proposed projects presented by a high-level delegation from Manila for possible financing by Beijing under the Duterte presidency during the latter’s recent two-day mission to China.
Meeting with the Philippine delegation led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III last January 23, China Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said the Chinese government “would like to continue to enhance the mutual trust and the mutual understanding with our Filipino colleagues in order to further expand and deepen our practical cooperation.”
Gao also said China seeks a “healthy and stable development” of the bilateral relations between the two countries that will benefit both countries and their people.
On the proposed projects presented by the Dominguez-led delegation, Gao said: “I absolutely agree with the proposals of all the ministers. We two countries need to strengthen our cooperation.”
Gao said China “attaches great importance” to the list of priority projects submitted by the Philippine delegation.
Dominguez, for his part, pointed out that what the two countries have jointly undertaken, in less than four months since President Duterte’s China visit, “reaffirms our strong commitment to pursue long-term, comprehensive, stable and cooperative relationship with China grounded on mutual respect, sincerity, equality, and mutual benefit for the advancement of peace, security, and prosperity of our two countries.”
In the meeting, the Filipino and Chinese officials also agreed to reconvene the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC) this February to ensure close coordination and further promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Gao and the other Chinese officials present during the meeting in Beijing agreed with a Philippine delegation on the urgency of implementing projects that Manila has proposed to Beijing for possible financing.
Both sides also agreed on the importance of “openness and transparency” in the ongoing talks on the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that were sealed last year during President Duterte’s Oct. 18-21 state visit to Beijing as well as in the implementation stage of the projects that China would eventually underwrite.
The Philippine delegation had submitted a total of 40 “large and small” infrastructure projects to China for possible loan financing and assistance in conducting feasibility studies during the Jan. 23-24 mission.
Of the 40 projects, 15 are being proposed for loan financing while another 25 were submitted for feasibility study support.
Three of these large-scale projects are worth $3.4 billion combined.
These three are the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga with an estimated total project cost of $53.6 million; the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon, $374.03 million; and the South Line of the North-South Railway running from Manila to Legaspi City in Bicol, $3.01billion.
Nine other projects, which aim to interconnect the country’s three main island-groups, boost tourism, and construct a flood control system in Mindanao and ensure its stable power supply, were likewise presented by the Philippine team to Gao for feasibility study support.
Dominguez said the other projects on the list are relatively small in scale, and are easier to implement, such as the construction of bridges across the Pasig River to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Dominguez, who described the meetings with Chinese officials as “very positive” said the Philippine mission was a “productive first step towards achieving the desire of (Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping)” in further reinforcing ties between the two countries.”
He said the generous assistance offered by China to the Philippines is among the concrete results of the President’s foreign policy rebalancing toward accelerated integration with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and its major Asian trading partners China, Japan and South Korea.
Amid global uncertainty over a possible overhaul of US trade policies under the new presidency of Donald Trump, it was a “very smart” move by President Duterte to recalibrate the Philippines’ foreign policy early on and reorient the economy toward greater integration with its Asian neighbors, Dominguez said.
“It makes more sense for us to be closer to our Asian neighbors than to our distant friends,” Dominguez has said.