Manila separates maritime disputes from trade, finance ties with China
PHILIPPINES Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Manila was trying to protect its interests by separating maritime disputes from its drive to attract Chinese investment for large-scale infrastructure projects.
Beijing has pledged to provide US$9 billion as financial assistance as well as commercial loans to Manila for a range of projects. That includes financing for two bridges, an irrigation project in the northern Philippines and a $268 million dam project to expand water supplies for metro Manila, reported the Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.
Discussions are also under way for a $3 billion railway project to connect Manila to Bicol in the country's south. The Philippine government hopes that once completed the railway can help to create more jobs and connect more people to the capital.
"These projects will be funded by the Chinese government, and we are negotiating terms of the funding, but they are really attractive terms," said Mr Dominguez.
The cordial relationship with Manila, a major territorial claimant in the South China Sea, has been widely seen as a strategic victory for Beijing, which has significantly stepped up its efforts to draw in Southeast Asian states by deepening economic ties through investment and trade.
At the same time, Beijing has continued its reclamation and militarisation efforts in the disputed waters, building ports, airstrips and even radar installations, triggering widespread concerns that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's embrace of Beijing will eventually jeopardise the interests of other countries in the region.
Mr Dominguez said the Philippines was not giving up its claims but seeking a way to become a peaceful neighbour with China.