Philippines eyes Chinese grants to reduce poverty

Kyodo News

Posted at Jun 28 2018 07:41 AM

The Philippines is eyeing grant assistance from China to help reduce its poverty rate to 14 percent by the time President Rodrigo Duterte ends his term in 2022, a government official said Wednesday.

Liza Maza, head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, told reporters at the start of the 12th ASEAN-China Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction, being held in Manila through Friday, that China has been assessing the poverty situation in the Philippines since last year.

She said Chinese experts have been sent to poor communities in the capital Manila and elsewhere on the main island of Luzon to assess where China should direct its aid.

The anticipated assistance is expected to materialize this year, with a memorandum of understanding to be signed when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the Philippines, possibly in November after an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea.

Stressing the importance of aid quality, Maza said the Philippines especially desires transfer of knowledge and technology from benefactors like China.

She said the Chinese are clearly keen to assist other countries, being "very proud of the fact that they have lifted 700 million from poverty" in their own country.

Last year, Maza led a delegation to Hainan province for a study-tour to learn about China's poverty reduction experiences.

Poverty remains persistently high in the Philippines, which has the highest population growth rate in Southeast Asia.

According to available figures, the national poverty incidence fell from 25.2 percent of the population in 2012 to 21.6 percent in 2015, translating into 21.9 million poor people.

Since coming to power two years ago, Duterte has pivoted to China despite lingering territorial disputes between the two countries in the South China Sea, taking advantage of the benefits of comradery with the world's second largest economy.

The Philippines has since garnered billions of dollars in soft loans and grants, and tens of billions more in investment and aid pledges, supporting, among other things, the administration's mega-infrastructure program called "Build, Build, Build."