DAVAO CITY–Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said over the weekend the latest round of high-level dialogues between the Philippines and China has paved the way to “a decisively progressive and productive” cooperation between the two countries as both sides formalized here a six-year development program on expanding their economic ties.
Philippine and Chinese officials also signed agreements on the conduct of preliminary studies for two proposed big-ticket infrastructure projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, during the visit of Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang to President Duterte’s home city of Davao.
Vice Premier Wang met with the President and separately discussed with Cabinet officials led by Dominguez the progress of the cooperation between the two countries on implementing the Philippines’ large-scale infrastructure projects through Chinese grants and concessional loans.
Dominguez and China Commerce Vice Minister Fu Ziying, who is also China’s International Trade Representative, formalized the agreement on the conduct of preliminary feasibility studies for the proposed Davao City Expressway and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges Project through an exchange of letters after last Friday’s meeting between Philippine and Chinese officials at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel.
“The exchange of letters will enable the dispatch of Chinese experts to conduct preliminary studies on the two projects. The grant assistance is aligned to the Memorandum of Understanding on supporting the conduct of feasibility studies of major projects signed between the Department of Finance (DOF) and China’s Ministry of Commerce in October 2016,” the DOF said in a statement.
Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Minister Fu also signed the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) that “aims to steer and promote the stable and orderly development of economic cooperation between the two countries.”
The SYDP also aims to “enlarge the scope and enhance the level of cooperation between, and drive sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development in, the two countries,” according to the DOF.
In the high-level meeting with Chinese officials led by Vice Premier Wang, Dominguez thanked China for its grant of assistance worth $91 million, which include a $1 million donation for the earthquake-hit province of Surigao; a $75 million grant for the construction of the Binondo-Intramuros and the Estrella-Pantaleon bridges across the Pasig river; and the ongoing $15 million financing provided under the anti-illegal drugs and law enforcement security cooperation agreement signed last year between the two countries during President Duterte’s October state visit to China.
According to the DOF, the meeting focused on three major issues: bilateral cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, trade, investments, agriculture and fisheries, and tourism; updates on the proposed infra projects for Chinese funding and ways to further enhance financing cooperation between the two countries; and regional concerns such as the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN this year.
In the meeting, Vice Premier Wang Yang noted that his visit to President Duterte’s home city is in “preparation for future high-level visits and to ensure that past visits will result to successful outcomes.”
The Vice Premier said that prior to his visit, a large Chinese business delegation went to Manila on a procurement mission and committed to buy more than $2 billion-worth of goods produced in the Philippines.
He also said increasing investments from China could encourage the establishment here of more industrial parks.
In the meeting, the Chinese side also expressed its commitment to provide assistance to the Philippines in solving Metro Manila’s traffic woes by supporting the construction of bridges crossing the Pasig River and improving living conditions for informal settlers “by providing housing support,” the DOF said.
China is also eyeing the provinces of Davao and Palawan as sites for its investments and cooperation with the Philippines in the fields of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries.
“The Chinese side will encourage well-known agricultural companies in China to invest in and cooperate with the Philippines and possibly explore setting-up of demonstration areas to showcase advance practices in agriculture, including investments in aquaculture,” the DOF said.
China also expressed enthusiasm on the growth potentials of the country’s tourism industry and has targeted one million tourist arrivals from mainland China to the Philippines to help realize the goals of the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism, which was launched in Manila last March 16.
The Chinese Government will “lose no time to enhance cooperation and give concrete help to the President and contribute to the development of the Philippines,” Vice Premier Wang said.
He also “expressed the willingness of the Chinese Government to provide financing through various channels on top of China EXIM Bank’s concessional and preferential buyer’s credit facilities, such as through the China Development Bank and Bank of China,” the DOF said.
The Vice Premier likewise assured China’s support in case the Philippines will access co-financing with multilateral development banks like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Dominguez, for his part, said the series of high-level dialogues between the Philippines and China, which began just a few weeks after President Duterte’s state visit to Beijing last October, “reflect our steadfast commitment to enhance cooperation between our two countries.”
The two sides also recognized the key role played by the private sector in enhancing cooperation between the two countries.
“Vice Premier Wang said that private companies should be regarded as major partners and that cooperation with the sector should be based on market rules,” the DOF said.