THE PHILIPPINES is seeking to fast-track a funding agreement with China for the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power complexes after the project emerged as one of its priorities during a meeting of both parties last week.
In a statement yesterday, the Department of Finance (DoF) said that the Philippine delegation, led by Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, met with its Chinese counterparts led by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Aug. 23 to discuss “the progress of the projects that, will be and are being, implemented with Chinese financing support.”
The DoF said that Mr. Dominguez “underscored” a “possible parallel financing arrangement between China and the World Bank for the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi Hydroelectric Power Plants of the National Power Corp. (Napocor),” which he described as “a very important project that the Philippines wants to fast-track.”
Mr. Zhong said the Ministry of Commerce was “supportive” of the proposal, according to the DoF.
The Agus-Pulangi rehabilitation project was among those projects lined up for China financing after President Rodrigo R. Duterte obtained $9 billion worth of official development assistance (ODA) during his visit to Beijing in October 2016. Funding was only firmed up as part of the “second basket” of projects in September 2017.
The complex currently serves as Mindanao’s main power source.
Mr. Dominguez has said pursuing a rehabilitation will be timely as the region currently enjoys an oversupply of power.
Following the rehabilitation, the power plants are scheduled to be privatized.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the rehabilitation is scheduled for 2020 and completed by 2022. The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. has yet to prepare a feasibility study for the project.
Of all the proposed projects to be funded by China, only the P3.69 billion partial financing of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project has been signed, along with grants for the Estrella-Pantaleon and Binondo-Intramuros bridges, drug rehabilitation facilities in Mindanao, and assistance in the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
Apart from China and the World Bank, the DoF had also asked the OPEC Fund for International Development a participate in the project during a meeting here in May.
The DoF said in 2017 showed that the project could take about five years to complete, and would cost about P54 billion.
Mr. Dominguez also said that the government’s China Projects Task Force, which was created in April, “has been effective in monitoring and facilitating the preparation and implementation” of projects proposed for China’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) financing.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in June that the financing process with China is not moving as fast as those of other development partners, largely due to inexperience in dealing with Beijing.
Mr. Dominguez also welcomed the creation of the China International Development Cooperation Agency tasked to handle foreign aid. The agency was created in March.
“We look forward to working with them,” he said.
During the meeting, Mr. Dominguez was joined by Mr. Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar; Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano; Vivencio B. Dizon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority; and Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan