Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made an unpublicized trip to China last June even before President Rodrigo Duterte's recent state visit to Beijing, outgoing US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said Tuesday.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Goldberg said he was not surprised that the Philippines secured an estimated $24 billion in investment and loan pledges after Duterte's visit restored to normal level the relations between Manila and Beijing.
The deals include at least $5.5-billion for transportation and infrastructure, $1 billion for a hydroelectric power plant, $700 million for a steel plant, and $780 million for a port development project in Davao City that are expected to generate 2.6 million jobs.
Goldberg noted that before Duterte's state visit, Chinese ambassador, Zhao Jianhua, and Chinese businessmen visited the president-elect in June. Cayetano and Tugade also made a trip to China last June, he said.
"I actually wasn’t all that surprised. I do know that the Chinese Ambassador and others in the Chinese business community were visiting [then] President-elect Duterte quite often in the month of June,” Goldberg said.
"I also know, and I don’t think this has been revealed publicly, but I know, that Senator Cayetano, President Duterte’s running mate, made an unpublicized trip to China in June along with Secretary [Arthur] Tugade. All of this actually were in train, I think. There were already discussions going on."
"I don't think Senator Cayetano's role was fully known publicly but he was actually starting this process way back June."
Asked if Cayetano and Tugade made back door negotiations with China, Goldberg said he does not know since it was never explained publicly.
"This was clearly in train before of the recent statement and upset and all of that so it wasn't exactly, for me, a surprise," he said.
Tugade was appointed transportation secretary in May 2016. Cayetano ran for vice-president as Duterte's running-mate but lost in the May 2016 polls.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier described the pledges from China after Duterte's visit as "Parang gripo yan na nabuksan (It's like opening a faucet)."
Among the agreements signed last week are:
-- Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) worth $3 billion between MVP Global Infrastructure group and Suli Group Ltd. to build cabling manufacturing facilities
-- MOU worth $2.5 billion between China Railway Engineering Corp. (CREC) and MVP Global Infrastructure group
-- MOA between Greenergy Development Corp. and Power China Guizhou Engineering Corp. for the development of the 300MW Pulangui-5 Hydro Project worth $1 billion
-- Agreement between Zonar Systems and Power China Sino Hydro for a nationwide island provinces link bridges for sustained development worth $800 million
-- MOU between Mega Harbour Port and Development, Inc. and China Harbour Engineerig Co. Ltd. (CHEC) for the Davao coastline port development project worth $780 million
-- Memorandum of agreement between Global Ferronickel, Inc. and Baiyin International Investment Ltd. for a $500 million to $700 million steel plant
-- MOU between Sino Hydro and Zonar Construct on the Pasig River Marikina River Manggahan Floowdway bridges construction projects worth $600 million
-- MOU between Mega Harbour Port and Development Inc. and CCCC Dredging Company (CDC) for the Cebu International and Bulk Terminal Project worth $328 million
-- Agreement between One White Beach Land Development Corp. and Sino Hydro for the Ambal Simuay Sub-river Basin of the Mindanao river basin flood control project worth $325 million
-- Letter of investment between Zhuhai Granton Bus and Coach Company for a $300-million manufacturing facility
-- Strategic cooperation agreement between Manage Resources Trading Corporation and SIIC Shanghai International Trade Hong Kong for a $200 million steel manufacturing plant
-- Cooperation agreement between SL Agritech Group and Jiangsu Hongqi Seed Co. Ltd. worth $160 million to produce hybrid rice for two million hectares of rice fields
-- MOU between R-II Builders, Inc. and China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd (CHEC) for the $148-million Manila Harbour Center Reclamation Project
-- MOU between Philippine State Group of Companies, Yangtse Motor Group Ltd. and Minmetals International (HK) Ltd. for the $100-million EDSA bus program
-- MOU for joint development projects worth $100 million in renewable energy, major infrastructure and real estate between Colombus Capitana and China CAMCE Engineering Co. Ltd.
-- MOU between AVLP Asia Pacific Conglomerate, Inc. and the Shanghai Xinwo Agriculture Development Co. Ltd for a $100-million for a banana plantation project
-- MOU between TBEA Xinjing Sunoasis Co. Ltd, Trademaster Resources Corp. and Servequest Inc. for renewable energy.
With a report by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News