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PH, China to prioritize 8 projects

BEIJING—Philippine and Chinese officials cited Wednesday the efforts by the two countries to further streamline and expedite the approval process on the first “basket” of infrastructure projects, which initially prioritizes eight “cooperation” initiatives that Manila will be implementing in tandem with Beijing.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who led the Philippines’ economic managers in a meeting with Chinese Commerce Ministry officials here, reported on the “additional progress” in the bilateral dialogue mechanisms and the cooperation initiatives under the first basket of projects that the Philippines has presented for Chinese financing.

Dominguez also told Chinese officials led by Commerce Minister Zhong Shang that the Philippine government was looking forward to the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Manila for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in November as this “will further strengthen our bilateral relationship and capability to work together for mutual beneficial cooperation.”

“We recognize and appreciate the continuing engagement between our governments to speed up the preparations of the big-ticket infrastructure projects. Both governments are exerting efforts to streamline and expedite the approval process for the flagship projects,” Dominguez said at the meeting.

Also with Dominguez were two of his fellow economic managers—Secretaries Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority and Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management.

Dominguez said the “substantial progress of the bilateral relations (between the two countries) is demonstrated in [their] joint pursuit of achieving a ‘favorable and enabling environment’ ” to ensure the “faster and timely” approval and completion of the projects.
    
In the meeting, Zhong concurred with Dominguez on “moving faster for the continuous progress for the ongoing projects” and cited the need to tap additional financing sources for these, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank AIIB), the Asian Development Bank as well as the Silk Road Fund, a $40-billion financing platform owned by the Chinese government that aims to provide investment support under the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
    
Its chairman, Ji Qi, describes the Silk Road Fund as a “commercial investment organization” in which investments “follows commercial principles and international rules.”
    
Zhong also stressed at the meeting the need to prioritize eight projects under the first basket so that substantial progress would have already been made by the time Premier Li visits Manila in November.
    
These projects are the Binondo-Intramuros bridge and the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge in Manila funded by Chinese grants; the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Cagayan and Kalinga provinces and the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project; two drug rehabilitation facilities; the Elevated Expressway in Davao City and the construction of an industrial park, Zhong said.