MANILA - The Philippines can open to other countries China’s promised investments and infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that have yet to materialize, the head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Thursday.
This comes after former Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said the issues surrounding the South China Sea and mounting tensions between China and Taiwan might further derail the realization of China-sponsored projects.
Roque also noted that as of 2016, only 2 of the promised 75 projects have so far been completed despite a “renaissance” in China-Philippine relations under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
But NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that while the Philippines welcomes China's funding, the Asian giant is not the only source of investment and potential funder for the country.
"Of course, we would want China to be part of all our investment and infrastructure programs but we open the opportunities to anyone who would like to come in,” Balisacan said in a chance interview with Malacañang reporters.
“Of course, what is best for the country is the main consideration. If it turns out that other, Japan, Korea or whoever can provide better terms and consent for the projects, we should go for those," he added.
The Philippine government, he said, is so far open in terms of sources of funds for infrastructure programs.
He added that the administration is not looking at any particular country that could potentially fund the BRI projects.
“We look at the terms. We look at the commitments to complete the projects. Because particularly... the infrastructure flagship projects, we want to make sure these are all unrolled as the administration completes its term," he said.
"We want to have most, all of those started so that when the next administration comes, there are projects that are already there,” he said.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte pursued friendlier ties with China to seek investments and infrastructure funding.
However, last year the Department of Transportation revealed that the construction of several China-backed railway projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program could not move forward because they have yet to be funded.
Among the projects that still don't have funds are the planned train systems from Laguna to Bicol, Clark to Subic, and the Mindanao Railway--which was a campaign promise of Duterte.
Chinese Ambassador in Manila Huang Xilian last year boasted about economic ties between the two sides, saying China has been the Philippines’ biggest trading partner since 2016, and the second-largest foreign investor in 2020.
Some bilateral government-to-government projects were also carried out under the Duterte administration, which included 12 programs worth $100 million and 7 projects with a total value of around $700 million, said the envoy.
Among these are the China-backed "Two Bridges Project" in Manila, the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology-Technical Cooperation Program, which is on its 3rd phase, and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
This year, Malacanang said Marcos had secured some $22 billion worth of investment pledges during his state visit to China.
At the start of his term, Duterte also visited China and said he had brought home around $24 billion in investment and loan pledges.
But in 2020, Duterte’s own Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said China was “slow” in providing funding for the country’s infrastructure projects.