Duterte shelves Chinese projects but still pushes 'Build, Build, Build'-(Nikkei Asian Review)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte disembarks from a plane upon his arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Nov. 4. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Presidential Communications Operations Office)
China promised Duterte US$9 billion. He’s had only US$924 million in loans and grants. Why?
Beijing in 2016 pledged to fund an array of major construction jobs for the Philippine president’s signature Build, Build, Build programme
But three years on, many projects remain on the drawing board, leaving Duterte with little to show for his much-touted policy pivot to China
China and the Philippines signed six deals last week that boosted Beijing’s funding for the Southeast Asian nation to a total of US$924 million, but the amount is a long way from the US$9 billion pledged in 2016.
The discrepancy has left critics asking what Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has to show for his policy pivot to China, which he previously touted as a boon for trade and tourism.
The latest agreements included feasibility studies for two construction jobs tied to Duterte’s Build, Build, Build programme, an infrastructure initiative he promised would spur economic growth.
The projects – a 27.1 billion peso (US$530 million) bridge linking Panay and Guimaras islands in the central Philippines, and a 25.6 billion peso expressway in Duterte’s southern home city of Davao – are in the “advance stages of planning”, according to public works secretary Mark Villar.
The studies are being financed by grants and carried out by state-owned Chinese firm CCCC Highway Consultants.
Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, who witnessed the signing of the deals in Manila on Thursday, later met with Duterte and stressed that Beijing had an interest in integrating its Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s global trade strategy, with the Philippines’ own infrastructure aims.
“We should ... fast-track our cooperation on important projects, and in this way we can harvest more substantial fruits of cooperation,” Hu said.
Duterte shelves Chinese projects but still pushes 'Build, Build, Build'
In infrastructure policy revamp, Manila cuts reliance on loans and embraces PPP
President Rodrigo Duterte's government has shelved infrastructure projects it deems unfeasible, including at least two big Chinese-funded deals, in a major policy revamp as it scrambles to complete projects before Duterte's term ends in 2022.
Duterte has come under pressure to deliver on his government's promise of ushering in the "golden age of infrastructure," which it has partly done through cheap loans from Japan and from China, the country's maritime rival which the president has courted for investments.
In a policy shift, the government is also embracing infrastructure projects proposed by private companies under a public-private partnership model.
With less than three years in office, the administration is revising its list of "flagship" priority projects, according to Vince Dizon, recently named presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects.
The new list has 100 projects -- up from 75 -- including airports, railways, dams and roads, which make up half of the 8-9 trillion peso ($158-178 billion) planned spending under Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program. It also expects at least 54 projects to be completed by 2022, up from 21 in the old line-up.
The new list includes projects that are smaller but can easily be completed by 2022, helping Duterte, who is known for his bloody campaign against drugs, burnish his presidency's infrastructure record.