Gov’t team off to Beijing for USD 15-B investment deals

MANILA-- A high-level delegationfrom the Philippines will meet with key Chinese officials this week in China to further hammer out details of some USD 15 billion-worth of economic deals and investment commitments forged between Manila and Beijing during President Duterte's state visit to China in October last year.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, along with Secretaries Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Director General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), will lead the Philippine delegation visiting China on Jan. 23-24.

NEDA deputy director general Rolando Tungpalan, DPWH Undersecretaries Emil Sadain and Karen Jimeno, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president-CEOVivencio Dizon are also part of the delegation.

Joining them likewise are DOF Assistant Secretaries Ma. Edita Tan and Mark Dennis Joven, DOTr Assistant Secretaries Leah Merida Quiambao and Cesar Chavez, and Assistant Secretary Julia Nebrija of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

While in Beijing, the Philippine officials are due to hold separate meetings with China Vice Premier Wang Yang, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) chairman Xu Shaoshi.

They also plan to meet top officials of the China Investment Corp. (CIC).

The meetings will cover discussions on the government-to-government projects signed between the Philippines and China; the proposed projects for financing and feasibility studies; the chairmanship of the Philippines this year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); and matters concerning the AIIB and the Philippines' flagship infrastructure projects such as the PNR South Line, theMindanao Railway and the Subic-Clark Railway.

Philippine and Chinese officials have agreed in November last year during a meeting in Manila to move ahead on, and set up structures of coordination to effectively implement, the investment pledges forged between Manila and Beijing during President Duterte's state visit to China.

NDRC deputy chairman Ning Jizhe led a Beijing delegation last November in discussing in Manila the investment commitments and laying the ground work to allow both sides to push swiftly in implementing the projects covered by these pledges.

The NDRC is China's chief planning and strategy agency.

During Duterte's state visit to China, Dominguez signed three agreements on behalf of the Philippines.

These included the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation, which provides Manila with a RMB Yuan 100 million grant to implement projects for "anti-illegal drugs and law enforcement security cooperation," and the MOU Supporting the Conduct of Feasibility Studies for Major Projects, in which China will provide financing support to the Philippines in undertaking feasibility studies for big-ticket projects in infrastructure, agriculture and rural development.

The third MOU signed by Dominguez during the President's China trip was on Financing Cooperation with the Export-Import Bank of China (China EXIM), which would allow the Philippines to tap China EXIM funds for its major projects through the usual approval processes.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said last year the agreements were among the USD 24 billion-worth of aidand investment pledges that China had committed to the Philippines, comprising soft loans totaling USD 9 billion and other economic deals amounting to about USD 15 billion.

Dominguez said China's USD 24-billion pledge and Japan's recent commitment of USD 9 billion worth of investments and development assistance to the Philippines were worth almost Php 1 trillion and make up among the largest amounts announced by the two economic powerhouses for a single country.

He said these unprecedented pledges of aid and investments by Japan and China reflect the strong confidence of the international community in the Duterte administration's capability to sustain the Philippines' high growth path and realize its inclusive growth agenda.

According to the finance secretary, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge of a 1-trillion yen investment and development aid package is the largest that Japan has committed to a single country.

The JPY1-trillion pledge spread over five years, which is equivalent to about USD 9 billion, or around Php 424 billion, was announced by Prime Minister Abe during his week-ago official visit to the Philippines.

Last December, the China-led AIIB expressed enthusiasm in finalizing Philippine infrastructure projects after the Senate had ratified the Bank's Articles of Agreement.

Two initial projects that the AIIB will co-finance with other multilateral lending institutions are the Php 23.4-billion Metro Manila Flood Management Project and the Php 37.8-billion EDSA Bus Rapid Transit system, according to Bank president Jin Liqun who visited Manila last month.

Source: Philippines News Agency