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Philippines-China infra co-financing issues resolved, says Dominguez

Chinese officials affirmed last week that they are willing to co-finance Philippine infrastructure projects, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Tuesday.

“Clarifying that they’re willing to do co-finance, clarifying that they’re willing to finance in Renminbi rather than just dollars ... Those are the things that we discussed,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told reporters on the sidelines of the 2018 EJAP Economic Forum in Manila.

Dominguez, along with other members of the administration’s economic team, was in Beijing on August 22 to 24 to meet with Chinese officials.

“Wonderful. The weather was very good, there’s no pollution—very nice. It was quite productive,” Dominguez said regarding the meetings.

The Philippine delegation included Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Vivencio Dizon.

They met with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Affairs  Minister Wang Yi and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) Director Wang Xiaotao, Export-Import Bank of China (China EXIM) Chairperson Hu Xiaolian, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) president Jin Liqun.

“The meetings were extremely productive,” Dominguez said, but did not give out specific details on the agreements made during the meetings.

The Philippines stands to benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative of China as it coincides with the infrastructure spending plan of the Duterte administration, the Cabinet official noted.

“The Belt and Road Initiative, essentially, as I mentioned to all three government officials that we met, is really a powerful idea,” he said.

The initiative is a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping to connect Asian and European markets by pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure projects such as railways, ports, and power grids.

“It brings together a lot of the major economies in the world—together to improve trade, to improve free trade, to improve access to each other’s markets, which is really an engine for growth,” Dominguez said.

Under the Build, Build, Build program, the government plans to spend more than P8 trillion until 2022, largely funded by tax revenue.

This year alone, the Philippines plans to roll out more than 70 big-ticket projects cumulatively valued at $35.5 billion or P1.1 trillion.

Expected to be included in the co-financing pipeline are the proposed Sangley Airport, and bridges connecting provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“First of all, I understand that one of the state-owned enterprises is going into a joint project with one of the provinces for an airport. That’s one,” said Dominguez.

The Provincial Government of Cavite has proposed to develop the Sangley Airport,  and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has sent a letter of “no objection” to the project.

The Cavite government is reported to have been in talks with a Chinese enterprise for a possible partnership.

“Then, of course, the other projects that we are working with them are really the connectivity between Iloilo, Negros, and Guimaras.” Dominguez noted.

“Those are bridges. Possibly a bridge across the Davao Gulf to Samal. So again, connectivity,” he said.

Dominguez said in July that securing official development assistance (ODA) from China has been delayed by the reorganization of the Chinese government early this year.

Last June, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia floated the idea of going for a shift in financing mode for some infrastructure projects if there are delays in securing ODA from China and Japan. —VDS, GMA News