Chinese firms have 'big enthusiasm' to invest in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – A Beijing trade official said Tuesday that Chinese companies have “very big” enthusiasm about investing in railways and airports and other major infrastructure projects in the Philippines, and his government will encourage them to build an industrial park.

Wu Zhengping of China’s Ministry of Commerce said the two countries have agreed to hold a meeting of a joint trade and economic commission early next year and sign a six-year plan to boost trade and investment.

Wu told a news conference the joint trade commission has not met for five years.

A territorial conflict between China and the Philippines worsened during that period, but relations have started to improve after President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June and reached out to China while taking an antagonistic stance toward treaty ally the United States.

Duterte made a state visit last month to China, where he announced he would be separating from the U.S.

Philippine Cabinet officials later walked back on his stunning pronouncement, saying Duterte meant he wanted to chart a foreign policy that is not closely oriented toward Washington.

“After the successful and historic visit of the president to China, there has been enthusiasm from the Chinese companies,” Wu said. He said he met Philippine trade, transport and economic planning officials during his visit to Manila.

Asked for an estimate of prospective Chinese investment, Wu said, “I think the enthusiasm and sincerity of the Chinese companies are very big.”

He said Chinese companies are looking at investing in airports, railways, expressways and seaports, and would wait for the Philippine government to outline the infrastructure projects the country needs most.

While campaigning for election earlier this year, Duterte said he would “shut up,” apparently in reference to his country’s territorial disputes with Beijing, if China builds railways in the south, where he served many years as a mayor, and finances other transportation projects.