BEIJING—The Philippines has submitted to the new aid agency of the People’s Republic of China an indicative list of 12 big-ticket infrastructure projects that will undergo feasibility studies with possible Chinese grant financing, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
In a meeting between a Cabinet-level delegation from Manila and China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) chairman Wang Xiaotao, an agreement was also reached in which Beijing will provide a $13.4-million grant to fund the feasibility study of the proposed bridge project that will link the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros in the Philippines’ Visayas region.
The Exchange of Letters for the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge Project was signed by Chairman Wang and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar during the meeting held at the CIDCA Headquarters here last week.
Following the meeting with CIDCA, the Philippine delegation also met with Export-Import Bank of China (China EXIM) chairperson Hu Xiaolin to further discuss loan financing and co-financing arrangements for the Philippines’ infrastructure projects.
According to Wang, the Philippine delegation led by Dominguez was “the first high-level delegation” that CIDCA has received since its establishment in April this year.
“This truly shows that China gives great importance to the promotion of its bilateral relations with the Philippines,” Wang said during the meeting as he assured the delegation that through CIDCA, China will continue to provide assistance to the Philippines “in the direction determined by the leaders of both our countries.”
Dominguez, who thanked Wang for bestowing on the Philippines the honor of being the first foreign country to meet with CIDCA’s top brass, pointed out that “the helping hand of China has been very critical in the ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program of the Philippine government.”
Aside from Dominguez and Villar, the other members of the Philippine delegation included Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and other senior government officials.
On the Chinese side, CIDCA deputy chairman Zhou Liujun and Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and other officials were also present.
CIDCA is China’s new organization responsible for administering foreign aid and development assistance to other countries. CIDCA was among the reforms unveiled by China during its National People’s Congress held in March 2018.
Given that the aid agency was newly established, Dominguez suggested to Wang that a technical working group (TWG) composed of officials from the Chinese Embassy in Manila and Philippine officials from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Finance (DOF) and the Philippine Embassy in China be formed to further discuss CIDCA’s operational procedures.
Dominguez also asked Wang to consider assigning a CIDCA portfolio officer for the Philippines.
Wang, in response, said Dominguez’s suggestions are “very necessary.”
During the meeting, Pernia presented before Wang the indicative list of 12 flagship projects proposed for Chinese grant financing.
This list includes the future phases of the Mindanao Railway Project, Luzon-Samar (Matnog-Alen) Bridge, Dinagat (Leyte)-Surigao Link Bridge, Camarines Sur-Catanduanes Friendship Bridge, development of the Luzon Eastern Seaboard, Bohol-Leyte Link Bridge, Cebu-Bohol Link Bridge, Negros-Cebu Link Bridge, Ipo Dam No.3, Port Irene Development-Navigational Channel, Cabadbaran Small Reservoir Irrigation Project, and the River Basin and Watershed Management Project in Camarines Sur.
“These projects are selected considering geographic spread, the size of the investment requirement, and the Duterte administration’s focus on connectivity, rural development and disaster prevention, among other considerations,” Pernia said.
Pernia also gave an overview of the Philippine economy, which remains among the best performing ones in the Asia next to Vietnam and China, and informed Wang of the implementation of the Duterte administration’s tax reform program and high-impact infrastructure projects.
Earlier, the Philippine delegation met separately with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan to discuss the progress of the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure projects and ways to swiftly address challenges in their implementation. The delegation also met with Vice Premier Hu Chunhua who underscored the need further strengthen bilateral relations with the Philippines through enhanced cooperation in the areas of trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges.
The Philippine officials also discussed with top executives of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank the possibility of coming up with flexible loan financing arrangements for the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure projects.