China commits $4.8 billion for Philippine infra projects

China has committed to finance at least three infrastructure projects in the Philippines worth $3.4 billion (S$4.8 billion), two of which could be rolled out in the first half of this year, trade officials from both countries said on Tuesday.

The projects were part of the Philippines' infrastructure wish list, which it presented to China for possible financing, either through grants or loans, three months after President Rodrigo Duterte's China state visit in October.

The loan agreements for the irrigation, water supply and railway projects have yet to be signed, but two of these projects could be launched in the first half, with the third one to be rolled out before the year ends, Wu Zhengping, director general at China's Ministry of Commerce told a media briefing.

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Manila needs additional funding to upgrade and modernise its ageing infrastructure in order to lift its growth rate to as much as 8 per cent, create more jobs and reduce poverty.

China has welcomed Duterte's foreign policy shift away from traditional ally the United States and toward doing more regional deals for loans and business. "As we embark on renewed ties, it is imperative that we look back and recall that the ties of friendship between us were never completely severed and continue to this day," Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a joint briefing with China's new commerce minister Zhong Shan.

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The Philippines and China were also due to sign a six-year development programme for economic and trade co-operation later this month, Lopez said. "The two ministers talked about how China can help Philippines build more projects that have direct bearing on livelihood of Filipino population...and facilitate efforts of Philippine government to develop its economy and living standards of its people," said Zhong.