NANNING, China — Despite an ongoing maritime dispute, China has become the biggest source of foreign investments in the country in just two years.
Philippine officials attending the China-Asean investment summit last week said China had invested in 19 of 75 cluster projects under the Duterte administration’s P160-billion “Build, Build, Build” program.
Cagayan Economic Zone Authority administrator Raul Lambino said these projects supported the government’s “position that the Philippines’ relations [with China], both economic and social, does not begin and end on issues pertaining to the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.”
$962B in 2018
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, head of the Philippine delegation to the summit, said that Chinese investments in the country reached $962.6 million, or around P49 billion, in 2018.
Manufacturing takes up 96 percent of these investments, followed by 2 percent in real estate, 1 percent in electricity supply and 1 percent in accommodation and food service.
“China is not just a friend and neighbor to the Philippines. It is also a strong economic partner and our largest trading partner,” Macatoman said at a conference.
From January to May this year, the Bureau of Investments approved a total of P291 billion investments, P67 billion of which were from foreign firms.
In 2018, P104 billion out of the P915 billion approved investments were from foreign investors, almost half of which were from China.
Belt and Road Initiative
Macatoman said these investments made the Philippines the second fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia with its 6.2 percent growth rate next only to Vietnam, which grew 7.1 percent.
According to Lambino, it was only in recent years that China, especially state-owned corporations, started investing in development and ecotourism projects in the Philippines.
“But the [Philippine] government felt the need to distinguish between investments and financing, because the latter are just loans that [are conditional],” said Lambino.
On the other hand, the world’s second largest economy also promoted projects under its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global development strategy involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries.
The initiative includes the controversial $62-million (P4.37 billion) loan agreement with China for the Chico River irrigation project in the Cordillera.
It also includes nine seaport projects in Zamboanga, Bongao, Polloc Freeport and Ecozone, General Santos City, Brooke’s Point, Davao and three in Palawan.