MANILA- Manila and Beijing have agreed to prioritize Philippine infrastructure projects that could be done in two to three years' time in cooperation with China to ensure that these would be completed under the Duterte presidency.
A high-level Chinese delegation led by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan met with Cabinet officials led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in Manila Wednesday to discuss the details of the big-ticket infrastructure projects submitted by the Philippines to China for possible funding last year.
Dominguez said this latest meeting between key officials of the Philippines and China underscores the strong commitment between the two countries to sustain and further enhance their bilateral relations.
In the meeting, the Philippine delegation provided the Chinese officials with updates on the projects to be implemented in cooperation with China either through grants or loan assistance as well as an overview of the country's medium-term development plan.
Among the meeting's highlights was the exchange of notes between Dominguez and Zhong related to project financing procedures and the feasibility study for the drug rehabilitation facilities proposed by the Department of Health (DOH).
"Today adds another milestone in the Philippines' bilateral relations with the Chinese government. This consultation signifies a strong commitment between our governments to sustain and enhance our bilateral relations," Dominguez said during the meeting.
"We welcome and look forward to Minister Zhong's continued dialogue and express our optimism that under the honorable Minister's leadership, we can take our bilateral cooperation to new heights," he added.
Zhong, for his part, urged both sides to "continue working very closely and productively" on the projects discussed during the meeting and foresaw the future of bilateral cooperation between the two countries getting "even better."
High-level consultations with China's Ministry of Commerce began in January when a Philippine mission led by Dominguez flew to Beijing to meet with Zhong's predecessor, Minister Gao Hucheng, to discuss details of the Philippine projects submitted to Beijing for possible financing.
Dominguez said the Department of Finance (DOF) plans to officially submit two large-scale infrastructure projects to China within the month--the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga with an estimated total project cost of $53.6 million and the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon, estimated at $374.03 million.
In the meeting, Zhong suggested that both sides identify priority projects that could be completed within a two- to three-year period, to show "tangible progress" and results before the end of the Duterte administration.
Dominguez agreed with Zhong's suggestion and said, "we anticipate submitting more infrastructure projects that will be feasible and implementable within the Duterte administration."
He also agreed with Zhong that "making substantive progress within this year" should be among the priorities of the two sides.
Two relatively small projects that can be implemented within the year are two bridge projects across the Pasig River proposed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which China indicated it would support through grant financing. These are the P450-million Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the P260-million Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge that aim to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Dominguez also said that the Philippines is eyeing nine big-ticket projects that China could possibly support by way of funding and helping conduct their feasibility studies.
"As soon as we have received the endorsement of NEDA on these nine projects, we will submit these through the Chinese Embassy in Manila," Dominguez said.
Also present at the meeting were Secretary Ernesto Pernia, the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, Secretary Mark Villar of the DPWH, Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation, NEDA Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan and Vivencio Dizon, president-CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
Besides Zhong, the Chinese delegation included Directors General Wu Zhengping, Wang Shengwen, Zhou Liujun, and Ma Jianchun of the Ministry of Commerce; Deputy Inspector LI Zhuqun of the Ministry of Public Security; Executive Vice President ZHOU Qingyu of the China Development Bank; Vice President SUN Ping of the EXIM Bank of China; and Executive Vice President LIU Qiang of the Bank of China.
Accompanying the delegation were Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua, Counselor Liang Jianjun of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Counselor Jin Yuan of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.
The two sides also briefly discussed ways of enhancing financial cooperation and the Philippines' chairmanship of the ASEAN and hosting of its meetings this year, to which Zhong relayed China's assurance of support.
Source: Philippines Information Agency