PH hopes for more China funds for projects, grants

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The Philippines hopes to receive fresh Chinese funds for a law-enforcement project, several infrastructure projects and a grant that can be used for its coronavirus pandemic response, according to the Department of Finance (DoF).

In a virtual forum on Tuesday, Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven said the government was negotiating with Beijing on funding for the first phase of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Safe Philippines Project.

This project aims to ensure the effective and efficient management of public order, safety and security in the country. Under phase one, the DILG will provide 18 local government units in Metro Manila and Davao City with integrated operations and command centers and a remote backup data center.

The loan agreement for the $377-million project is seen to be signed in the first quarter, according to the Finance official.

Joven said also China was evaluating several Philippine project proposals that applied for funding.

These included the $530-million Ambal-Simuay River and Rio Grande de Mindanao River flood-control projects, and the $204-million the Pasig-Marikina River and Manggahan Floodway bridge projects.

“[T]hey have committed to resolve [these pending] applications soon and…we [would] have to negotiate and execute them during the administration of President (Rodrigo) Duterte.” he added.

These projects are on top of the nearly $500 million worth of loan agreements signed between Manila and Beijing in 2018 and 2019.

These include the $62-million Chico River Pump Project of the National Irrigation Administration; the $211-million New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Dam project of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System; and the project management consultancy for the $220-million Philippine National Railway South Long-Haul Project of the Department of Transportation and the Philippine National Railways.

Joven said the government was also processing the signing of another Chinese grant worth 500 million renminbi ($77 million), which could “provide similar grants to the government.”

“This grant may also be utilized to support Covid-19-related activities and response measures, subject to mutual agreement by” the Philippines and China, he added.

Once signed, this grant would raise the amount of Chinese grants to the Philippines to about 3.25 billion renminbi, or about $494 million.

“Since 2017, we have concluded six bilateral grant agreements with the government of the People’s Republic of China, totaling around 2.75 billion renminbi, or $470 million, which aims to support the conduct of a pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, provision of equipment, and implementation of infrastructure and other agreed projects,” the DoF official said.

These deals include Public Works projects such as the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in Manila, Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge in Makati City, the Davao City Bypass Road, and the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology.

These projects and grants, Joven said, shows that “China plays an important role in the financing development projects in the Philippines.”

“[G]iven the long history and partnership between the Philippines and China in trade, investments, and development, along with continued dialogue between the governments of both countries, we foresee Philippine-China economic relations to become even deeper and more valuable in the future,” he added.