Amid closer ties between Manila and Beijing, 18 projects and programs worth a total of P731.7 billion will be rolled out during President Duterte’s term through loans and grants from China.

National Economic and Development Authority documents showed that 16 projects with a combined project cost of P731.2 billion would be funded by Chinese loans.

Two projects worth at least P500 million—the Department of Agriculture’s P500-million Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology-Technical Cooperation Program Phase 3, and the Seawater Desalination Complete Equipment Project in Dauis, Bohol—will be financed by Chinese grants.

A loan from China was already extended to the National Irrigation Authority’s P4.4-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

So far, the Duterte administration had signed only one Chinese loan agreement, worth P3.14-billion agreement for the irrigation facility, the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by the mainland under the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program.

The $62.09-million US-dollar denominated loan will cover 85 percent of the total contract amount of P3.7 billion and carried an interest of 2 percent a year, maturing in 20 years inclusive of a seven-year grace period.

Currently under negotiations for loans from China are the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s P12.2-billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project; the Department of Transportation’s P175.3-billion North-South Railway Project-South Line (Long Haul); and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority’s P57.2-billion Subic-Clark Railway Project; the P39.2-billion Ambal-Simuay River and Rio Grande de Mindanao River Flood Control Projects; P25.6-billion Davao City Expressway Project; P97.3-billion Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges; P56.6-billion Cebu-Bohol Link Bridge; P44.6-billion North Luzon Expressway East Project; P47.4-billion Dinagat (Leyte)-Surigao Link Bridge; P57.6-billion Luzon-Samar Link Bridge; P72.1-billion Bohol-Leyte Link Bridge; P14.4-billion Negros-Cebu Link Bridge, and P2.3-billion Camarines Sur Expressway Project.

The Camarines Sur provincial government’s P4.7-billion Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Coastal Development Program as well as the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s P20.3-billion Safe Philippines Project-Phase 1 are also seeking Chinese loan financing.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto M. Pernia earlier said that amid lingering concerns on a “Chinese debt trap,” the Philippines was “more cautious” and “extra careful in having projects funded by China.”

Under the pipeline of programs and projects for official development assistance (ODA) as of June, 17 were being pitched for loans and 20 for grants or technical assistance from the Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank; seven for loans from the World Bank; and one for a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

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