By Rowel S. Barba
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. I want to offer my congratulations. China has seized remarkable achievements over past decades. Now as the second largest economy, China leads the world in many realms of science and technology.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, China-Philippines relations have been deepened and consolidated. Bilateral cooperation has been fruitful. On August 29, President Xi Jinping met with President Duterte at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Both leaders expressed readiness to enhance diplomatic ties. The two governments are now focusing on cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), people-to-people exchange, maritime dialogue and regional integration. President Duterte’s visit to China was a resounding success and significantly improved China Philippines ties.
Bilateral relations between China and the Philippines have reached historic highs across the board. Meetings between heads of state offer an important platform for promoting increased and deeper cooperation in trade and investment. In 2018, Philippine exports to China grew by 7.1 percent year-on-year to US$18.3 billion, accounting for 27 percent of total exports. As continuous policy of reform and opening-up creates more buying interest from China, the Philippines hopes for a more robust and healthy balance of trade in the coming years as both continue to enhance and increase trade links. China was the top source of Approved Foreign Investments last year, with investments worth US$975 million, up by 2,072 percent year-on-year. Many Chinese companies have shown interest, and we expect investments to continue to grow substantially.
President Xi Jinping declared it necessary to continue promoting synergy between the BRI and the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program as we implement major cooperative projects in areas such as infrastructure, industrial parks, telecommunications and energy. The Philippines is fully committed to participating and working within the BRI. Opportunities for collaboration are particularly ripe in the area of construction. According to the BBB program, a total of 8.4 trillion pesos (about US$162 billion) would be allocated to infrastructure in the Philippines from 2017 to 2022. The BRI complements our development plans, specifically the BBB program and ASEAN initiatives, including the Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
The Philippine construction industry is on the upswing, which has created opportunities for Philippine and Chinese companies to work together. Based on statistics from the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines, 13 Chinese companies have been granted Special Licenses to engage in construction in the Philippines, followed by companies from India, Japan, South Korea and other counties. China accounted for 32 percent of the total. The Philippines has huge demand for construction. According to the plan, the Philippines will invest up to 5 trillion pesos in transportation and 700 billion pesos in logistics over the next 10 years. By 2030, the Philippines will need 640,000 square meters of new office space each year and at least 20 new power plants. Between 2023 and 2030, about 2.4 million more apartments will be needed.