Spanish investors eye PH rail projects
The governments of the Philippines and Spain would sign an agreement to intensify economic and financial cooperation, especially as Spanish investors eye participation in rail projects here, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Wednesday.
In a statement, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Spanish Ambassador to Manila Luis Antonio Calvo Castaño met last Tuesday to discuss the proposed signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on economic and financial cooperation between the two countries.
The MOU “aims to explore cooperation between the two countries in various fields such as agriculture, industry, energy and services, water infrastructure, climate finance, environmental economics and disaster risk finance,” the DOF said.
Castaño also told Dominguez that Spanish firms were “interested in investing in the Philippines’ infrastructure buildup, particularly rail projects,” as the Spanish envoy noted that his country’s high-speed railway network is the second biggest in the world after China’s.
Also, the two officials discussed the Spanish government’s proposal to replicate its disaster preparedness and response project in Albay in 15 more provinces.
The Albay project involved rehabilitation of hospitals as well as establishment of a well-equipped disaster preparedness and evacuation center in the province.
The DOF said the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation or AECID, though a combination of grants and loans, wanted to replicate the project in Abra, Benguet, Cagayan, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Davao Oriental, Iloilo, Isabela, Lanao del Sur, Maguidanao, Pangasinan, Quezon, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Sur and Zambales.
Dominguez likewise thanked the Spanish government for official development assistance (ODA) grants, especially for projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Citing National Economic and Development Authority data, the DOF said Spanish ODA grants to the Philippines totaled $27.23 million as of end-April.
The DOF said the proposed MOU between the Philippines and Spain will allow expansion of ODA grants for projects in Mindanao as well as Bicol region.
As a whole, Castaño was quoted by the DOF as saying that the Spanish government was “very encouraged by the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.”
“Promotion of social rights is the key to the development of the country,” Castaño said.
The Spanish ambassador also expressed support to the DOF’s proposed tax policy reform program, which he said was “on point, progressive and would help ease the burden of the middle class and vulnerable sectors.”
The program, aimed at augmenting the P1 trillion in priority investments needed by the administration in the next six years to sustain at least 7-percent economic growth for long term as well as slash the poverty rate to 17 percent by 2022, will come in four main packages, the first of which will reduce personal income tax while raising consumption taxes by next year.
The tax policy reform program to be pitched by the Duterte administration to Congress before this month ends was targeted to generate P600 billion in additional revenues by 2019 while also fostering a simpler, fairer and more efficient system for taxpayers.