Chinese president visits Philippines, talk infrastructure

A state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines this month marks more development aid and progress for joint submarine fuel exploration for a host country in the midst of economic changes.

The Chinese president will visit for the first time since the election of his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, who after his appointment in 2016 surprised the West and a large part of its population by improving ties with China. Beijing and Manila had bitterly disputed the sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea before that time.

Since the two parties normally do not talk about the maritime dispute, the leaders are expected to focus on how China can help the Philippines build railways, bridges and other infrastructure, say analysts. These projects fall under Duterte's five-year, $ 169 billion "Build, Build, Build" policy.

The two leaders could also report progress on joint exploration of fuel under the South China Sea, believe some scholars.

FILE – Workers walk over the newly dried concrete and secure the joining of steel bars of the 5.58-kilometer elevated highway in Caloocan City, metro Manila, Philippines, August 2, 2017.

"The two governments are very similar, especially in the area of ​​infrastructure to support the Build, Build, Build & # 39; policy of the Philippine government and then other agreements such as the possibility of joint exploration & # 39; says Maria Ela Atienza, political scientific professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Money for new infrastructure

China pledged 24 billion dollars in development aid and investment in 2016 when Duterte traveled to Beijing for the first time. China had spread all its aid and investment across much of Asia, part of its Belt and Road initiative to open world trade routes by improving infrastructure.

Some Filipinos are wondering how much of that promise total China will eventually offer and whether the Philippines would carry debts such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka did after receiving Chinese loans.

FILE – The China-funded Colombo Port City project, whose development was suspended, can be seen in Colombo, October 19, 2015.

"A lot has been promised so far, but the realization of some of those promises in the past has not happened yet, so you have to see if there will be more," said Christian de Guzman, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody & # 39; s in Singapore.

When Xi on an unannounced date after 18 Nov. Coming, he and Duterte will sign a $ 3.3 billion loan agreement to help build a railroad southeast of Manila to the Bicol Peninsula, say domestic media. The project is part of the $ 169 billion infrastructure revision renewal program set to 2022.

China is also expected to help fund a $ 606 million railroad on the largely impoverished but resource-rich island of Mindanao.

The Philippines are looking at new railways, airports and seaports to stimulate foreign investment. Investors love the cheap labor of the country and the English skills of employees, but often store them because of the costs of use and transport.

FILE - The deck of Bluewater's floating production, storage and unloading vessel Munin, which floats on the Lufeng oil field, 250 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea.

FILE – The deck of Bluewater's floating production, storage and unloading vessel Munin, which floats on the Lufeng oil field, 250 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea.

Oil and gas exploration

The two governments have talked a lot this year about a deal for joint oil or gas exploration off the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan. The Philippines hopes to develop subsea fuels and reduce dependence on increasingly expensive imports, a driver of inflation since August.

According to economists, the country needs foreign expertise and investment to extract fuel under the seabed.

China hopes that joint exploration will strengthen its image as a good neighbor in Asia, after having alerted the Philippines and five other governments with years of military expansion in the disputed sea, think nautical scientists. Other countries sometimes turn to China's rival the United States for support when they are worried about Chinese expansion.

The Filipino foreign secretary was quoted on July 31 st by saying that Beijing was willing to take only a 40 percent share in fossil fuel discoveries in the South China Sea where the two countries have competitive sovereignty claims.

The two presidents are likely to talk about exploration, including a kind of breakthrough for a deal, without touching the issue of sovereignty, said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Philippine interest group Institute for Political and Electoral Reform at Metro Manila.

"The specific topic that I think will be more about securing the agreements and how to really work together on the South China Sea and other areas," Casiple said.

Some Filipinos want leaders to talk about the alleged intimidation of fishing boats by Chinese ships in the controversial sea, Atienza said. But she said that Duterte has a policy to avoid the sovereignty dispute in its dealings with China.

The visit of Xi to the Philippines is the eighth by a Chinese leader, since the two parties have built up diplomatic relations in 1975, according to Filipino government figures.