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Monday, September 10, 2018

Letters from Davao: Golden era of Philippine-China ties by Jun Ledesma


BURIED AND STONEWALLED in the din that emanates from the never ending clash of ideas on Federalism, senseless razzmatazz over Trillanes and whining over and blaming TRAIN law for the rise of prices of commodities is the successful foray of Finance Sec. Sonny Dominguez in China.

At least 10 flagship infrastructure projects are cleared for funding following a series of meetings of the Philippines economic delegation led by Dominguez last week. The formal ceremonies of the approval of multi-billion dollar loans and grants will highlight the visit of China Pres. Xi Jinping this November.

“This year the Philippines will start rolling out 70 big ticket projects valued at $35.5-billion marking the golden era of the bilateral relations between China and the Philippines”, the ebullient Secretary Dominguez declared.

Like the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion however, expect the negative political spectrum and kibitzers to raise their protest decibels. Already they have unleashed the initial volley of criticism claiming that Philippines is falling into a “debt trap” citing without explaining the case of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and some African countries that availed of cheap loans from China.

But the truth behind this claim is as earth shaking as the intrigues. Of the total loans Sri Lanka obtained from various sources only 10% of this comes from China and at a preferential rate. The same is exactly true with Pakistan.

Some western press warned of debt trap when a number of African nations sought China for investment and financing partnerships. The truth is China’s loan is only 1.8% of their total indebtedness.

The Senate Committee on Finance, obviously falling into the scare tactic of western propagandists, urgently called for a probe on the how deep is the Philippines in the so-called China debt trap. It turned out that of our loans obtained from China is only 1% of our total indebtedness.

In the golden era of Philippine-China relations is at its apex. Prior to elections in 2016 I was lucky to have been invited to visit to China along with a number of journalists from Metro Manila. We had the unique opportunity to talk with a ranking Foreign Affairs director who revealed to us how sourly the relations between our Philippines and China have become. I recalled him saying they have abandoned any hope of bilateral relations with the Aquino government months before and look forward for a better ties with whoever will be elected.

China, as far back as year 2,000 donated $5-million seed money for the establishment of a Hybrid Rice Technological Research and Demonstration Center in the campus of Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija. This coming visit of President Jinping, the Center will receive a fresh grant of P226.93-million. China will also provide $134-million grant for the feasibility study of Panay-Negros bridge and just in case we have forgotten China already extended a grant of P6-billion for the construction of Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon bridges which started last July and set to be completed in 2020.

And the big ticket flagship projects? Chiko River Pump Irrigation Project; Kaliwa Dam as new water source; Philippine National Railway Long Haul Project; Subic-Clark Railway; Five bridges crossing Pasig River; Manggahan Floodway, Ambel-Simuay River and Rio Grande flood control projects; Industrial Park in New Clark City.

In an environment hounded by “oust Duterte plot”, price hike and rage and rave over an inconsequential subject branded by BBC Stephen Sachur as “out-of -tune” Senator Trillanes, this initial package of infrastructure projects should draw a silver lining for the skeptics and the cabal of political oppositions and their minions in the religious band.

Our next problem will be shortage of labor but that one is easy to tackle. (Jun Ledesma)


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