Dominguez sees ‘much room’ for PH-China economic relations

By Chino S. Leyco

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said there is more room to boost the trade and tourism cooperation between the Philippines and China as the Duterte administration pushes its infrastructure flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III / Manila Bulletin Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

“I believe that China and the Philippine leadership have come to the realization that despite the unresolved issues between us, there is much room for expanded trade, tourism cooperation,” Dominguez said when asked by reporters about the “better” loan that Manila secured from Beijing.

Earlier, Dominguez said “the terms of the loan obtained by the Duterte Administration are at least 30 percent better than the loan secured by the Arroyo administration and wholeheartedly accepted by the Aquino administration.”

Currently, officials of the Duterte administration are holding a series of meetings in Beijing to continue their coordination with the Chinese government regarding the infrastructure projects that Manila are initiating.

The Philippine delegation to Beijing led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea met with top officials of China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) yesterday to firm up possible new agreements on infrastructure cooperation between the two countries.

The delegation is also set to meet with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
Other members of the Philippine delegation are scheduled to meet separately with officials of the Export-Import Bank of China (EximBank) and the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the office in charge of reviewing and implementing Beijing’s foreign aid projects.

On March 20, a Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) will be held in Beijing to showcase to potential investors the vast opportunities available to them in the Philippines as it emerges as an economic powerhouse in the region. A previous PEB was held in Shanghai in September 2017.

Last week, Dominguez debunked “misleading claims” that high interest rates were attached to loans extended by China to the Philippine government to help fund projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program.

He said the Philippines was able to secure better concessional loan financing from China for its big-ticket water infrastructure projects with lower interest rates and fees as well as longer grace periods on the Duterte watch compared with those obtained by the past administration.

He said data collated by the International Finance Group (IFG) show that the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, which China is helping fund with a USD 211-million loan was secured by the Duterte administration with a low interest rate of 2 percent per annum.

The Arroyo administration, on the other hand, was able to obtain the government’s USD 116.6 million-loan from China for the Angat Water Utilization and Aqueduct Improvement Project Phase II with a higher interest rate of 3 percent per annum.

The Angat dam project was completed in 2012 during the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, who thanked China for extending the loan for the project.

Dominguez noted that the then Aquino administration “fulsomely” accepted the project funded by China on behalf of the Philippine government.