Phl, China ink US$219M management consultancy loan for Manila-Bicol railway

Robie de Guzman   •   August 30, 2019   •   2538

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is accompanied by People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping inside the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing prior to their bilateral meeting on August 29, 2019. REY BANIQUET/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and China have signed an agreement for US$219.78 million Preferential Buyer’s Credit facility to fund the project management consultancy for the railway project that will connect Manila and Bicol.

In a news release, the Department of Finance (DOF) said President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of the loan deal between DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Export-Import Bank of China Vice President Xie Ping at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on Thursday.

The dollar-denominated loan has an interest rate of 2 percent per annum with a maturity period of 20 years, inclusive of a 7-year grace period, the DOF said.

The infrastructure project, called Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Long Haul Project under the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, will link Metro Manila to Legazpi, Albay; Legazpi to Matnog in Sorsogon; and Calamba, Laguna to Batangas City.

The DOF said that under the agreement, the services to be rendered by the project management consultancy cover the detailed engineering and design; preparation of the terms of reference and bidding documents for a design and build procurement for the civil works, rolling stock and electromechanical system, as well as the construction supervision.

The project management consultant will also provide tender assistance including the market study, administration of the limited competitive bidding, and tender award to the contractors and suppliers.

Duterte and Xi also witnessed the exchange of notes between Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirming the cooperation procedures and arrangements that will enable the Philippines to avail of Chinese concessional loans under a renminbi-denominated loan facility.

This loan facility between the DOF and the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) is seen to help the Duterte administration’s major projects promote economic and social development.

Two accords were also signed by Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero of the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs (BOC) with Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and Minister Ni Yuefeng of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC).

These are the Implementation Agreement with the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on China’s donation of four mobile x-ray container vehicle inspection systems and two luggage inspection systems to the Philippines, and a separate intergovernmental accord with GACC defining the scope and guidelines that aim to strengthen the cooperation and mutual assistance on customs matters between the two countries.

Dominguez earlier said the agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance covers GACC’s commitment to assist the BOC in monitoring and stopping the entry into the Philippines of unauthorized cigarette-making machines from China.

The Finance Secretary directed the BOC and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) earlier this year to work with their respective counterparts in China to stop the illicit entry of cigarette-making machines being used to manufacture fake tobacco products in the country.

Dominguez issued the order after confirming from the BIR that the illegal tobacco trade has shifted from smuggling cigarettes to producing locally counterfeit brands using undocumented cigarette-making machines.

Guerrero had earlier raised concern over the entry of illicit cigarette-making machines to the Chinese vice minister of the GACC during the sidelines of the 28th ASEAN Customs Directors-General Meeting held last June in Laos.

PH gov’t to verify reports on foreign ships’ alleged sewage dumping in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   July 14, 2021


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government will look into a report that some foreign vessels were allegedly dumping sewage wastes in the contested parts of the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement in response to a report released by US-based geospatial imagery firm, Simularity, which stated that foreign ships have been dumping sewage and human wastes in the reefs of the disputed waters.

“The responsible answer is we are verifying first, we will react if it’s been verified,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“We should accord our neighbors, and our friends the presumption of good faith, when they say something about an issue,” he added.

If the reports are true, Roque said the government would never allow the Philippines to become a garbage dump.

He even cited the incident when the Philippines sent back to Canada its illegally exported trash in 2019.

The Department of National Defense earlier said it is already verifying the report as it noted that the photo accompanying it was supposedly taken on the Australian Great Barrier Reef in 2014.

PNR Calamba to generate over 10,000 jobs — DOTr

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Railways (PNR) Calamba Project will provide over 10,000 direct jobs once its construction begins next year, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the PNR Calamba will provide employment opportunities not only for Calamba residents but also its nearby areas. He also said that there will also be indirect jobs available which increase the opportunities of job seekers.

“Importanteng malaman natin ang mga nagta-trabaho during the construction phase at mahalaga rin na malaman natin ang mga magtatrabaho kapag natapos na ang proyekto. Mahigit 10,000 trabaho po ang maibibigay nito sa ating mga kababayan oras na ito ay simulang itayo. Direct jobs pa lang ‘ho iyan,” he said.

(It is important to learn the workers during the construction phase and the workers that will be available after the project. Over 10,000 jobs will be generated for our fellowmen once construction begins. Those are just direct jobs.)

Once the PNR Calamba project is complete, the rail line is expected to significantly cut travel time. It is the third leg of the massive North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Project which will connect Metro Manila (Solis St., Tondo) and Calamba, Laguna. It is expected to cut travel time from the current 4 hours to just one hour.

The 56-kilometer railway project is expected to serve at least 340,000 passengers a day during its partial operations, while ridership is expected to increase up to 550,000 passengers once the railway is in full operation in 2028.

Tugade also said that completion of the PNR Calamba will boost local and regional economic development.

“Kung magagawa natin ito, talagang aangat at aangat ang ekonomiya ng Calamba (If we can accomplish this, Calamba’s economy will progress). Remember, this is a historical site. Imagine the benefits it would generate for tourism,” he said. AAC

DFA urged to summon Chinese envoy over additional ships spotted in WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to summon Beijing’s Ambassador to Manila anew over the reported presence of more Chinese ships within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) at the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros said the DFA should ask China’s envoy to explain the alleged presence of more than 100 ships this month as reported by a geospatial intelligence firm.

According to a report released Sunday by US-based Simularity, the number of “likely Chinese ships” spiked from 129 to 238, an increase of over 100 ships.

The report detailed that “between mid-May and mid-June 2021, the number of ships within the Union Banks increased from 9 to 236 and the number of ships near Gaven (Burgos) Reef in Tizard Bank decreased from 234 to 71.”

“Instead of de-escalating the tensions in the disputed waters, they doubled down. This clearly shows that China is shamelessly hellbent on aggravating the situation,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

She also urged Malacañang to condemn China’s “incessant presence” in the West Philippine Sea.

“The Palace should look Beijing straight in the eye and tell her to remove her ships from our territories,” she said.

As of writing, the DFA has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Two months ago, the DFA summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian for the first time over Beijing’s continued swarming of Julian Felipe Reef with over 200 of its vessels.

China has ignored the arbitral ruling that invalidated its nine-dash claim over the vast part of the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA has repeatedly fired off diplomatic protest and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vessels.

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