MANILA – The Philippines and China have agreed to accelerate the implementation of various cooperation projects during the expanded bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Malacañang Palace on Wednesday.
This was highlighted with the signing of 14 trade, infrastructure, financing and defense agreements, indicative of the robust and productive relationship that the two countries enjoy since Duterte was elected into office.
Among these were several financing cooperation agreements for the Duterte administration flagship projects under its Build, Build, Build program.
These included the Financing Agreement on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and New Centennial Water Source – Kaliwa Dam Project; Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Jointly Promoting the Second Basket of Key Infrastructure Projects Cooperation; and the MOU on Jointly Promoting the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Project Cooperation.
Under the financing agreement, China will provide soft loans estimated at USD 234.92 million for the Kaliwa dam and USD 72.49 million for the Chico River irrigation facility.
The two projects were included under the first basket of infrastructure projects presented by the Philippines for possible Chinese financing.
Meanwhile, the MOU on the second basket of key infrastructure projects cooperation will jointly identify and study an indicative list of key projects for possible Chinese financing.
Among the proposed projects under the second basket are the development of the Subic-Clark Railway, Davao City Expressway, and Panay-Guimaras-Negros Inter-Island Bridge.
Meanwhile, China will provide a 150-million renminbi (approximately USD 23 million) grant to aid the Philippine government’s quick recovery and reconstruction program for Marawi City under the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation.
Other agreements signed during the expanded bilateral meeting were the Exchange of Letters on Project of Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers; Exchange of Letters on Project of Two Bridges across Pasig River; MOU for Cooperation on Industrial Parks Development; MOU Concerning the Provision of Goods for Addressing Climate Change; and the Implementation Framework for the MOU and Development of Project List for Cooperation in Production Capacity and Investment.
Also included were the MOU on Defense Industry Cooperation; MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property; MOU on Strengthening Youth Cooperation; MOU between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and China Development Bank; and the Republic of the Philippines 2017 Renminbi Bond Issuance Underwriting Agreement.
In the joint press statement delivered by Duterte and Li, the Philippine President thanked the Chinese government for the various assistance it has provided the country as he noted the positive turnaround and vigorous momentum of Philippines-China relations.
He said Premier Li’s visit is a momentous occasion for the Philippines as it marks the first visit of a Chinese Premier to Manila in 10 years.
“This shows the great strides that we have accomplished in the bilateral relations between our two countries since I assumed office,” he said.
“Mutual trust and confidence-building have led to increased interaction on many levels of our two governments. Practical cooperation in many areas is bringing in an early harvest of tangible benefits,” Duterte said.
Duterte said Premier Li’s visit as it allowed him the opportunity to personally extend his gratitude to the Chinese Government for its valuable support for the ASEAN chairmanship of the Philippines this year, and its assistance to our country’s Build Build Build infrastructure initiatives, its looking out for the welfare of Filipinos who live and work in China, its benevolent assistance in providing military equipment to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and its aid to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City.
“With pragmatism, mutual respect, sincerity, equality, and shared benefit, the friendly relations between our two countries will forge ahead, determined to secure a prosperous future for both our peoples,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Premier Li likened the present Philippine-China relationship to Manila’s hot weather.
“Winter has come to northern hemisphere, but the temperature in Manila is still running pretty high. I think that somewhat reflects the temperature of China-Philippine relations, which is also going pretty high on the basis of the positive improvement of the relations between the two countries,” he said.
“We hope that we will continue to work together to strengthen this positive momentum and work together to make up for the time that we may have lost,” Li said.
The relationship between the two countries took a pivotal turn when President Duterte embarked on an official visit to China in October last year to seek warmer ties with the Asian superpower as part of his independent foreign policy.
The two countries have been embroiled in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea, with the Philippines getting a favorable ruling from a United Nations tribual.
Duterte temporarily set aside the ruling in pursuit of improving economic ties with China.
“That was an ice-breaking trip in the relations between our two countries. This time I have come to the Philippines,” Li said.
“I have come to carry forward our traditional friendship. I believe, in spite of some ups and downs in the relations between the two countries, the aspiration shared by the two peoples for taking our friendship forward and embracing even brighter future for themselves has never changed,” Li said.
He suggested that the next step forward would be for the two countries to sit down and discuss cooperation plans in various specific levels lasting for the next five or even to 10 years.
Li said this would “send out a message to the people of the two countries, as well as the international community, that China-Philippine relationship will continuously go forward and the people-to-people friendship between us will be further strengthened.”