China's state-owned lenders seek warmer ties with Philippines

Karen Lema, Reuters

Posted at Oct 14 2016 04:27 PM

The Oriental Pearl Tower is seen at the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, China October 9, 2016. Aly Song, Reuters

MANILA - China's state-owned lenders are "very keen" to establish economic and financial ties with the Philippines, opening the door for Manila to tap funding for its massive infrastructure spending plans, the national treasurer said on Friday.

The warming relationship between the Philippines and China holds "a lot of promise," National Treasurer Roberto Tan, set to accompany President Rodrigo Duterte on a four-day trip to Beijing from Tuesday, told Reuters by telephone.

About 250 Philippine business executives will join Duterte on the trip, which puts aside years of hostility to seek a new partnership with China at a time of mounting tension with Manila's traditional ally, the United States.

The closer ties "open up new sources of financing...and this bodes well for the economic initiative of the Duterte administration to invest more in infrastructure," he added.

China Eximbank was among the firms that reached out, Tan said, seeking to provide financial help to Duterte's government, which has promised to boost infrastructure spending to 7 percent of GDP by the end of its 6-year term, from 5 percent now.

"There is a momentum, but now it is heightened because of the policies of the Duterte administration," Tan said.

Tan will attend an event hosted by the Bank of China in Beijing, he said, but declined to give details.

Duterte's visit could dispel mistrust over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea that have strained ties, but risks altering strategic alliances in a region growing wary of China's influence and military might, and with a strong US presence.
Manila and Beijing will sign pacts next week on "economics, business, (and) investment," Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told a media briefing.

"We are just trying to promote friendly relations with all countries," he added. "We are not being friendly to one country at the expense of another."