China has agreed to cooperate with the Philippines on 30 projects worth $3.7 billion focusing on poverty reduction, the two countries said after a meeting in Beijing on Monday.
Gao Hucheng, China’s Commerce Minister, announced the deals without giving details, saying it was an “initial batch” of projects that still needed to be finalized and paperwork still needed to be processed by the banks involved.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said he had a “very productive” meeting with Gao and they had discussed large projects in rural areas, as well as some smaller projects.
The deal is the first announcement from a two-day visit by a Philippine cabinet delegation to China that comes three months after President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing to pave the way for new commercial alliances.
Beijing has welcomed Duterte’s foreign policy shift away from traditional ally the United States and towards doing more regional deals for loans and business under his “pro-Filipino” policy.
Chinese officials pledged US$15 billion of investment to the Philippines during Duterte’s visit in October, according to the Philippine finance department.
Asked whether US President Donald Trump’s economic policies would affect commercial ties between China and the Philippines, Dominguez said: “It’s better to be with good friends.”
He told reporters: “I’m not sure at this moment exactly what the new US policies [are], but I believe that the reorientation of our president to our neighbors really was very smart.”
The Philippine delegation is due to meet Vice-Premier Wang Yang at Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex that houses China’s central government, later on Monday.
The Philippine team on the trip includes Duterte’s finance, budget, economic, public works and transport secretaries.
The two sides will also discuss the Philippines’ chairmanship of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) this year.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on January 11 he was confident a code of conduct in the South China Sea between Asean and China could be finished by mid-2017. (Reuters)