DAVAO CITY — The Philippines’ economic managers met on Monday with a delegation from top trading partner China, led by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to prepare the groundwork for at least five deals that are expected to be signed during President Xi Jinping’s November visit.
“We would like to take this opportunity to discuss the status of the cooperation agreements and documents to be executed during the visit of President Xi Jinping,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who led the Philippine party, said in his opening statement prior to the closed-door meeting held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.
In a statement after the meeting, Mr. Dominguez described it as a “productive dialogue” that focused on the status of agreements, particularly those relating to Chinese funding support for the administration’s Build, Build, Build program.
Mr. Dominguez said the agreements planned for signing are all “on track.”
Several members of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Cabinet were present, including Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar, Bases Conversion and Development Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Vivencio B. Dizon, and Assistant Secretary Roderick M. Planta on behalf of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia. Ambassador to China Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana was also present.
“Both our governments expressed full commitment to our shared goals of implementing the important consensus reached between our leaders, as well as bringing our bilateral relations to a higher level through enhanced cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges,” Mr. Dominguez said, referring to the high-level bilateral meetings held in Beijing in August.
“We greatly appreciate the Chinese Government’s assistance in translating this into concrete actions,” he added.
Mr. Dominguez said an Exchange of Notes is also being drafted for financial assistance through the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
During the August meeting, Mr. Pernia presented several projects for CIDCA financing, including future phases of the Mindanao Railway Project; Ipo Dam No. 3 in Norzagaray, Bulacan; the Port Irene Development-Navigational Channel in Cagayan; the Cabadbaran Small Reservoir Irrigation Project in Agusan del Norte; the River Basin and Watershed Management Project in Camarines Sur; the Luzon-Samar (Matnog-Allen) Bridge; the Dinagat-Leyte-Surigao Link Bridge; the Camarines Sur-Catanduanes Friendship Bridge; development of the Luzon Eastern Seaboard; the Bohol-Leyte Link Bridge; the Cebu-Bohol Link Bridge and the Negros-Cebu Link Bridge.
Mr. Wang, for his part, said “economic cooperation” is an integral part of bilateral relations.
Improving economic cooperation, he said, is important in “realizing the long-term stable friendship between our two countries.”
Wang cited the significant growth of two-way trade between the two countries as well as the rise of Chinese investment in the Philippines, which, he said increased “by more than 500%” in the first six months of 2018.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show China at the top spot among the country’s trading partners in the first half of 2018, with $14.08 billion , accounting for 16.6% of the period’s total trade.
This excludes Hong Kong, considered a Special Administrative Region of China, which ranked 5th with a trade value of $6.29 billion.
Mr. Dominguez said “China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, is now the Philippines’ biggest trading partner with total trade amounting to $44.8 billion in 2017 and $33.5 billion from January to August this year.”
Meanwhile, three bilateral documents were signed after Monday’s meeting. These are: the Exchange of Letters for the Feasibility Study of the Davao River Bridge (Bucana) Project; the 50 million yuan grant for the Supply of Law Enforcement-Related Materials/ Equipment to the Philippines; and a $1 million grant for the victims of typhoon Vinta (international name: Tembin) in 2017. — Marifi S. Jara