Philippines: China yet to deliver promised billions despite Duterte’s pivot

  • Near the center of Manila, construction workers are now rushing to complete a USD69mn China-funded bridge by the end-2021 after repeatedly missing deadlines.
  • The Binondo-Intramuros Bridge is set to be among the first to be completed out of the 14 China-funded infrastructure projects in the pipeline. Back in 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte travelled to Beijing and dramatically embraced China.
  • Still, not everyone was convinced the USD24bn in Chinese investments would come without strings attached. The pledges caused some “reservations” from the start, said former Philippine Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who was among the top officials who signed deals with Beijing.
  • Five years later and about 10 months away from the next election, most big-ticket projects funded by China have yet to break ground or haven’t been approved, with only three under construction.
  • China originally agreed to provide USD9bn in soft loans, yet Beijing’s loans and grants to the Philippines were at USD590mn in 2019, up from USD1.6mn in 2016, according to data from the National Economic and Development Authority.
  • It also pledged USD15bn worth of direct investments, yet approved investments totalled USD3.2bn from 2016 to 2020, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
  • One big problem the projects face is the Philippines’ lengthy approval process, according to Tina Clemente, a professor at the University of the Philippines’ Asian Centre.
  • Chinese investors are also staying away from the country and investing more elsewhere in the region due to structural problems in the business environment such as foreign ownership restrictions, high power costs and poor infrastructure, she said.

External Link :