China expresses its interest in priority infrastructure

Posted on March 18, 2011

CHINA has expressed support to the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) initiative and is looking to discuss the program along with other economic cooperation schemes should President Benigno S. C. Aquino visit that country this year, the Chinese envoy said in a briefing yesterday.

Liu Jianchao, China’s ambassador to the Philippines, recalled telling Mr. Aquino that the PPP scheme is a "very interesting and inspiring program which really shows the enthusiasm and determination of the Filipino government in having cooperation with other countries."

"We welcome the Philippines’ Public Private Partnership scheme. It’s a beneficial arrangement that offers a chance for corporations to invest in the infrastructure of the country," Mr. Liu said in the press conference.

"We are ready to help with promotion of PPP in China. We got the initial information that the Department of Finance and other related departments are working on the possibility of trade shows and they are welcome," he said.

The ambassador also expressed hope that the PPP projects, along with other possible economic cooperation schemes, can be discussed in detail should Mr. Aquino visit China "hopefully in May" this year.

Malacañang refused to confirm the visit, while the Department of Foreign Affairs could not be immediately reached for comment.

"I hope the visit will be accompanied by business activities so that the business sector of the two countries can talk to each other and find out the opportunities for cooperation," Mr. Liu said. "We hope that the PPP program will be carried out to the letter, down to the concrete details so it can be materialized [sic] between the Philippines and hopefully Chinese companies and businesspeople."

The government had said earlier it aims to auction off five PPP projects worth over P1 billion in the first half, with the separate operation and maintenance contracts for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 and the Metro Rail Transit 3 ahead of three others, namely: the Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road project, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 and the North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway connector road.

Mr. Liu also invited Philippine businessmen to invest in China, especially with the Chinese National People’s Congress approving that country’s new five-year plan for 2011-2015, which focuses on spurring domestic consumption.

"We welcome investments from all over the world, including the Philippines. We will continue to work with the Philippines and the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] so that they will benefit from the tremendous market in China as we make domestic consumption a driving force for economic and social growth," Mr. Liu said.

"The Chinese people are going to spend more in the next five years, so that will be an opportunity for our neighboring countries with regard to exports to China."

Mr. Liu added that investing in China will be an opportunity to expand corporations, saying Philippine investors in China have enjoyed good returns on their investments and fair treatment from the government on business matters. "If you talk to Filipino investors like Henry Sy and Lucio Tan...I think they’re happy with the investment climate in China and are getting good returns," he said.

Data provided by China’s Customs Authority and cited by Mr. Jianchao showed that value of trade between China and the Philippines totaled $27.7 million last year, an increase of 35.1% from 2009. Chinese exports to the Philippines reached $11.5 billion, 34.3% more than in 2009, while Philippine exports to China reached $16.2 billion, up 35.6% from 2009. The Philippines, according to the China data, enjoys a $4.7-billion trade surplus.

Chinese investments in the Philippines in 2010 totaled $86 million, 112% up from 2009, while Philippine investments in China reached $116 million, 97.8% more than the preceding year, the same data showed. -- Nathaniel R. Melican