By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) plans to sign the loan agreement with South Korea on the $172.64-million New Cebu International Container Port Project during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first visit to Seoul next week.
The DoF said in a statement yesterday that Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III met with South Korean Ambassador Han Dong-man on May 11, and hoped that both parties could sign the agreement during the Philippine delegation’s June 3 to 5 visit. DoF also plans to present more projects for funding support.
After securing the loan, the project will go through detailed engineering studies and enter the pre-construction stage.
On May 4, both countries signed the framework agreement on Export-Import Bank of Korea-Economic Development Cooperation Fund (KEXIM-EDCF), which allows the Philippines to draw $1 billion from the loan facility until 2022.
The New Cebu International Container Port Project, which is among the projects lined up for KEXIM funding, was approved by Mr. Duterte in December last year.
Mr. Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit on June 4, to “reinforce their alliance and further improve ties,” according to Seoul.
Mr. Dominguez will present four new government projects for possible Korean official development assistance (ODA) financing.
These include: a project preparation facility of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA); the Asbang Small Reservoir Irrigation Project in Davao del Sur; a new airport in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; and the implementation of an electronic receipt and invoice system and electronic sales reporting system.
Mr. Dominguez thanked Mr. Han on South Korea’s assistance in the ongoing Panguil Bay Bridge project, a $100-million enterprise aimed at connecting Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.
“Thank you for all the assistance you have provided us. Panguil Bay Bridge is coming along and you have funded a lot of projects. I want to assure you that we will not waste your taxpayers’ money, we will make sure that it will benefit the Filipino people,” said the Finance chief.
Mr. Han, for his part, said he encourages Korean businesses to invest more in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, since there are “more opportunities” there.
“I have asked Korean companies to join many projects in Mindanao,” the diplomat said.
Mr. Han also said he has asked the South Korean government to contribute to the rehabilitation efforts of the besieged city of Marawi.
Among the top South Korean companies with current investments in the Philippines are Samsung, Sunjjn, Kepco, Daewoo International, and Asiana Airlines, according to the DoF.
South Korea is the sixth-largest ODA provider to the Philippines, totaling $570.6 million as of 2017.
It is also among the top sources of foreign tourist arrivals, after some 1.6 million South Koreans visited the Philippines last year.