By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
China is offering financing for digital infrastructure projects in the Philippines as its second stage of investments in the country as a follow up to the hard infrastructure investments they are investing in countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
This was the gist during the special session on the “Belt and Road Initiative: Opportunities and Challenges at the Age of Connectivity” on the last day of the 45th Philippine Business Conference (PBC) held at the Manila Hotel.
Deng Jun, country manager of Bank of China, said in a chance interview following a panel discussion at the PBC that Bank of China is extending additional financing for digital infrastructure projects in the Philippines.
Deng did not give specific amount as to how much they may allocate for digital infrastructure financing, but said this is on top of the $2-billion credit facility the bank has opened for the Philippines.
“As a banker we would like to continue contributing efforts to finance projects in the Philippines,” he said citing digital projects to include 5G technology.
For his part, Xiao Wei, deputy managing director for global business department of China Telecommunications Department (China Telecom), said they are looking at long-term investments in the country.
“We are thinking about long-term investments, so we need to work with local partners here,” he said.
In April this year, Udenna Corporation signed a $5.4-billion agreement with China Telecom to develop the Philippines’ third telecommunication consortium Mislatel with Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp.
Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, founder of Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics signed the agreement to formalize their “mutual undertakings and obligations” to become the country’s third telco provider.
The signing, held during the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, was witnessed by business leaders from the Philippines, China and other Asian countries.
“Udenna is a very good partner,” said Xiao, who described the project in partnership with Udenna as the “most important project right now that we are working with.”
The partnership seeks to deploy 4G technology plus 5G. Xiao said that 5G technology is geared for the long term horizon.
“Bringing in 5G into this country is very important,” he added.
Francis Chua, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and also founder and chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, explained to reporters that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is moving towards providing digital connectivity to countries that are part of the BRI initiative.
“Remember, we’ve talked about highways, shipping, logistics but this time is another portion of the Belt and Road Initiative called Digital Silkroad,” he said.
Previously, Chua explained, the Belt and Road or Silkroad concentrated on ground infrastructure projects, meaning hard infrastructure, but China is now moving towards digital infrastructure.
With several services to be opened with digital infrastructure, Chua said this will pave for more investments into the country.
“That will take you to more services in the country and other parts of the world,” he added.