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China loans to PH projects to continue despite COVID-19

/ 04:05 AM February 19, 2020

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian —NIѸO JESUS ORBETA

Even as the Chinese economy takes a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak, Beijing’s top diplomat in Manila said that the economic giant would continue to extend loans and grants for big-ticket infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

“Although we are fighting the epidemic in China, that has not reduced our commitments internationally. We will continue to push ahead with our cooperation with the rest of the world, including our neighbor, the Philippines,” Ambassador Huang Xilian told members of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU) Monday.“We’ll continue to carry on and push ahead with those projects. And I can assure you the loans for certain projects being processed here were according to regulations required by both sides,” Huang said.

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“We will work together with the Philippine side to make sure those projects will not be affected due to COVID-19,” Huang added.However, Huang said the travel ban imposed by the Philippines to and from China had already been affecting the progress of some Chinese-funded projects here.

The envoy said Chinese engineers who spent Chinese New Year back home had been unable to return to the Philippines after the outbreak happened.

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Despite a $9-billion commitment to finance flagship projects belonging to the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program, China has signed with the Philippines only two loan agreements to date—$62.1 million for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, and $211.2 million for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam.

China has also given away grants to build bridges crossing Pasig River and other infrastructure in Mindanao, including the rehabilitation and reconstruction in war-torn Marawi City.

Also, the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project across Davao region will be financed by China.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia earlier described the pace of implementing China-funded infrastructure projects as “rather slow.” —Ben O. de Vera INQ

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