Outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: China-US Focus

Stressing renewed bilateral cooperation and support for the Philippines as it seeks to achieve a rapid economic recovery, Chinese companies have signed two major construction contracts for a bridge link to Davao City in Mindanao and a cargo railway in Luzon, The Asset reported.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met recently with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said China will contribute to its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program by actively promoting cooperation on big projects.

The Subic-Clark railway project, which will cost approximately US$940 million, will be bank-rolled by China. It will also be the highest-funded G-to-G cooperation project between China and the Philippines so far, Xinhua reported.

The railway is a 71-km single-track cargo railway connecting Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Clark International Airport and linking the country’s North Railway Project.

It will mainly adopt Chinese standards, and the construction period is estimated to last 42 months. In the long term, the extension of the railway will reach New Clark City, Xinhua reported.

“Once completed, the railway will build a resilient linkage between ports, railways, and airports along the Subic-Clark corridor, which will improve the logistic efficiency, trim the transportation cost and support the potential demand for freight services and economic activities in the region,” the Chinese Embassy said.

The Chinese government and the Philippine government will soon kick off the loan agreement negotiation of the project, Xinhua reported.

The Samal Island-Davao City bridge project, which will cost approximately US$400 million, is a two-way four-lane 3.86-km bridge to connect the Island Garden City of Samal to Davao City across the Pakiputan Strait.

The main bridge is 1.62-km long and will be designed in a cable-stayed structure with the twin towers and double cable planes, Xinhua reported.

The construction duration is estimated to last 60 months.

Once completed, the bridge will provide a transportation link between Metro Davao and Samal Island, reducing the transportation time and enhancing internal mobility and external linkage to support the economic and tourist growth potential of the local region.

The project is expected to break ground in the first half of 2021, Xinhua reported.

In 2017 the Philippine government initiated the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, which intended to spend 8 to 9 trillion pesos (roughly US$160 billion to US$180 billion) in the medium term, to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure.

Philippine Department of Finance chief economist Karl Chua told Forbes magazine that the government is looking at 75 flagship projects, which include six airports, nine railways, three bus rapid transits, 32 roads and bridges, and four seaports that will help bring down the costs of production, improve rural incomes, encourage countryside investments, make the movement of goods and people more efficient, and create more jobs.

The government is also aiming to construct four energy facilities that will ensure stable power supply at lower prices; ten water resource projects as well as irrigation systems that will raise agricultural output; five flood control facilities that will help protect vulnerable communities as well as boost their resilience against the impact of climate change; and three redevelopment programs that will deliver sustainable solutions to best meet the needs of the urban population.

If successful, Duterte could once and for all extinguish the Southeast Asian country’s reputation as the “sick man of Asia”— and usher in an unprecedented era of inclusive economic development, Forbes reported.

But there is one major hurdle in his way — rampant corruption and widespread skimming.

As the saying goes, in some Asian countries, bribes are handled under the table, in others, it’s over the table … and in the Philippines, it includes the table.