MANILA - The construction of two China-funded Pasig River bridges has inched a step closer to realization after the Philippines and China exchanged letters on the project on Wednesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang witnessed the exchange of letters at Malacañang Palace between
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and International Trade Representative and Vice Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying.
The agreement on the bridges is just one of the 14 memoranda of understanding and agreements that the two sides signed during Li’s visit.
The first of the two bridges will connect the Binondo and Intramuros districts in Manila, while the other will replace the existing bridge connecting Mandaluyong and Makati’s posh Rockwell area.
Public Works Undersecretary Karen Jimeno said the Chinese grant for the two bridges is worth 661,800,000 renminbi or about P5 billion.
“The China grant has a cap of 661,800,000 [RMB] for the 2 bridges. Meaning the grant will not cover anything that exceeds that amount,” Jimeno said in a text message to reporters.
In previous speeches, Duterte had mentioned China's offer to build bridges along Pasig River as a testament to the two countries' deepening ties often challenged by the unresolved South China Sea dispute.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III represented the Philippines in the exchange of letters for the construction of rehabilitation centers in Sarangani and Agusan del Sur.
Following the exchange of letters, Li and Duterte graced the launching ceremony for the projects.
In his joint statement with the Chinese Premier on Wednesday, Duterte hailed the improvement in Philippines-China ties.
“I am pleased to note the positive turnaround and vigorous momentum of Philippines-China relations. Mutual trust and confidence-building have led to increased interaction on many levels of our two governments,” he said.
“Practical cooperation in many areas is bringing in an early harvest of tangible benefits. Altogether, these concerted efforts of the Philippines and China have secured peace, stability, and development in the region.”
Li, for his part, offered to continue the dialogue with the Philippines to explore more aspects of cooperation.
“Winter has come to northern hemisphere but the temperature in Manila is still running pretty high. That somewhat reflects the temperature of China-Philippines relations, which is also going pretty high on the basis of the positive improvements on the relations of two countries,” said Li, the first Chinese premier to visit the Philippines in 10 years.
KALIWA DAM PROJECT
Another big-ticket project that China has agreed to fund is the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project.
The Department of Finance – International Finance Group (DOF-IFG) said China will provide soft loans estimated at $234.92 million (approximately P11.7 billion) for the Kaliwa dam and $72.49 million (approximately P3.6 billion) for the Chico River irrigation facility under the first basket of infrastructure projects presented by the Philippines for possible Chinese financing.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III also signed a memorandum of understanding with Fu to “jointly identify and study” an indicative list consisting of the second basket of key infrastructure cooperation projects for possible Chinese financing.
Among the proposed projects under the second basket are the development of the Subic-Clark Railway, the Davao City Expressway, and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Inter-Island Bridge.
The DOF-IFG said the pre-feasibility studies of the Davao City Expressway and Panay-Guimaras-Negros Inter-Island Bridge projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were funded by a grant from the Chinese government.
The finance department said China has committed an estimated $7.34 billion in soft loans and grants thus far to the Philippines for the implementation of 10 big-ticket projects, including the construction of the two bridges in Metro Manila and two drug rehabilitation facilities in Mindanao.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has chosen to downplay Manila’s dispute with Beijing as he pursued improved trade relations with the economic giant.
China has pledged billions in investments to the Philippines and express
ed support for Duterte's controversial war on drugs, which has drawn international criticism.
Duterte recently met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam, where the two sides agreed that going to war over the sea dispute is not an option.