Philippines agrees to streamline approvals for key Chinese-funded projects

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Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan -- XINHUANET

THE GOVERNMENT’S top economic and infrastructure officials met with their Chinese counterparts over the weekend, agreeing to do away with unnecessary procedures that may delay the roll-out of their Official Development Assistance (ODA)-funded infrastructure projects.

The Chinese delegation is headed by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, and the officials reviewed the progress of the “first basket” of China-backed infrastructure projects.

These projects includes the P2.7 billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the P10.86 billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, and the P151.3 billion North-South Railway Project (NSRP) South Commuter Line.

The review also covered two Pasig river bridges — the P4.607 billion Binondo-Intramuros and P1.376 billion Estrella-Pantaleon bridge.

According to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III both sides have agreed to fast-track the implementation of the projects by waiving certain approvals from the National Economic and Development Authority Board.

“We have streamlined our procedure so that we don’t take so long anymore. For example, before… you approve the projects, then another board meeting is needed to confirm (the project). We said, why do you have to do that, it’s already approved,” Mr. Dominguez said yesterday on the fast-tracking of the projects.

“So now, it’s approved and confirmed immediately.  So right away that’s already two months down, then there are other things they do,” added Mr. Dominguez.

This was the fourth meeting of both side to discuss these infrastructure projects, with the previous one held mid-March.

“It is the first time in the history between our two countries that we are working this close and fast together,” said Mr. Dominguez.

A similar meeting was conducted with the Japanese early July, with the same goal of expediting the implementation of projects.

According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, the two sides set “definite deadlines for specific project stages.”

He noted that some of the projects will start this year, while some will begin later. 

Mr. Zhong said: “The Ministry of Commerce will spare no effort to accelerate the construction of all these key projects, and it is our sincere hope these projects can be started at an early date and will be completed at an early date.”

Apart from Mr. Dominguez and Mr. Pernia, members of the Philippine Delegation included Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vince B. Dizon.

Mr. Villar meanwhile said that his office and other agencies are undertaking necessary preparations to meet the target of holding the groundbreaking rites for the two bridge projects by November, in time for the visit to Manila of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend the 20th ASEAN-China Summit.

The Chinese delegation also firmed up Beijing’s P15-million aid pledge for Marawi rehabilitation, as well as $3 million in heavy equipment. It also reaffirmed the $1 million aid for the quake-hit province of Surigao del Norte.

The Chinese delegation included Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua, Commerce Vice-Minister Wang Shouwen and other key officials of the China Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan