China reassures commitment to Philippines infra funding as projects remain unfunded

·3 min read
In this handout photo provided by the Office of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., left, meets with China's Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian as he handed the congratulatory note on behalf of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Metro Manila, Philippines on Thursday May 12, 2022. (Office of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. via AP)

The Chinese embassy in Manila has assured the Philippines that they are ready to back the government’s infrastructure projects after a Transport official said that several China-backed railway projects remain unfunded.

In a statement on Sunday (July 17), the embassy maintained that they are still negotiating with the Philippines over funding for infrastructure projects.

"Our two sides have been negotiating technical issues and made progressive progress to move the projects forward," the embassy said.

“China will tap its own advantage and support the Philippines to improve its infrastructure,” it continued.

Earlier, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said that several China-backed projects – the P142 billion Calamba to Bicol railway, the P51 billion Clark to Subic train system, and the P83 billion Mindanao Railway – still have no funding.

Chavez said while the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board during Duterte’s term has approved the three railway projects to be funded by official development assistance (ODA) loans from China, the Asia giant failed to act on the funding requests.

Meanwhile, the China embassy said that the country is “open for technical discussions” on government-to-government projects, adding that they’re ready to work with the Marcos administration.

"China is open for technical discussions over our G-to-G projects, and is ready to carry our cooperation forward, in close communication with the Philippine new administration," it added.

According to the embassy, 17 projects have been completed and more than 20 projects are under implementation or in progress.

"Over the past two years, COVID-19 has impacted implementation of some projects, hindering the site availability, causing delays of procurement, affecting goods mobility, and so on," the Embassy said.

"Despite those difficulties and challenges, our two sides have worked tirelessly to push the projects forward and yielded rich outcomes, spanning from anti-pandemic response, disaster relief to infrastructure, agriculture, and other fields," it added.

Other options

House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez has urged the Marcos administration to drop Chinese financing for three railway projects.

In a statement on Sunday, Rodriguez said that the new administration should explore other funding options as loans from China could come with “strings attached.”

“The problem with loans from China is that there will be strings attached which will sacrifice our full sovereign rights over our West Philippine Sea,” Rodriguez noted further in his statement on Sunday.

He cited multilateral institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank; international assistance agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Korea International Cooperation Agency, and the European Union Funds; and even the private sector as potential partners in the railway projects.

The Cagayan de Oro City lawmaker also suggested that the government tap the annual national budget to fund the projects.

Additionally, Senator Grace Poe said that Marcos’ interest to renegotiate the infrastructure deals with China should not compromise the country’s interest.

should iron out issues that saddled the previous agreements, including interest rates and payment terms.

“Renegotiation should iron out issues that saddled the previous agreements, including interest rates and payment terms,” Poe said.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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