China Visit Helps Duterte Reap Funding Deals Worth $24 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will bring home $24 billion worth of funding and investment pledges from his four-day visit to China as both nations agreed to resume talks and explore areas of cooperation in the South China Sea.

China will provide $9 billion in soft loans, including a $3 billion credit line with the Bank of China, while economic deals including investments would yield $15 billion, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters in Beijing on Friday. Preliminary agreements in railways, ports, energy and mining worth $11.2 billion were signed between Philippine and Chinese firms.

"China is not only a friend. China is only a relative, but China is a big brother," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in Beijing, adding that while U.S. had been like a father for the Philippines, it was time to move out of the house and “decide for ourselves.”

The investment deals conclude a contentious week for Duterte who told a business audience in Beijing on Thursday following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that he wanted to cut the cord with the U.S. and pivot to China and Russia, deepening a split with his country’s biggest military ally. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Philippine cabinet would move strongly and swiftly toward regional economic integration even as they said that the nation would maintain its relations with the West.

Railways, Ports

China’s Baiyin Nonferrous Group Co. has agreed to consider investing up to $700 million in a stainless steel plant in the Philippines in a preliminary agreement signed with Global Ferronickel Holdings Ltd, the Philippine company said.

China Railway Engineering Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding for a $2.5 billion project with MVP Global Infrastructure Group. China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd. signed a $780 million coastline and port project in Davao City, hometown of Duterte.

The Philippines will maximize the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a funding source for infrastructure projects, Lopez said. It won’t stop trade, but would lessen “too much dependence” on the U.S., Lopez said, adding the Southeast Asian nation “realistically” can’t stop transactions with its military ally.

China and the Philippines agreed to continue discussions on confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and will meet regularly on issues of concern in the disputed sea under a bilateral consultation mechanism, according to a joint statement e-mailed by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. “Both sides also agree to explore other areas of cooperation,” the statement said.