Duterte: China an 'important ingredient' in 'Build, Build, Build' program

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte said China plays a crucial role in the government's "Build, Build, Build" program.

"China is a very important ingredient there....Every day the cost of money goes up. That's the problem. We will have pricing today far different from last week. I would say I need China, more than anybody else at this time," Duterte said Monday after his departure speech before flying to China for the Boao Forum for Asia.

The "Build, Build, Build" program is among the Duterte administration's landmark schemes, which aims to boost the country's economy and investments through big-ticket infrastructure projects.

Budget officials earlier estimated the cost of the program, which aims to usher in a "Golden Age of Infrastructure" in the country, at around P9-trillion.

READ: ₱9-trillion infrastructure program will not drive PH into debt: Budget Department

In March 2017, Philippine and Chinese officials signed the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) for trade and economic cooperation, along with other agreements for two major infrastructure projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, under the "Build, Build, Build" program.

The SYDP will serve as the overall framework for more economic agreements between the Philippines and China during the Duterte administration.

READ: PH, China seal more economic deals

Officials from both parties have started looking into possible preliminary studies for the Davao Expressway, and bridges connecting Panay, Guimaras, and Negros islands.

The Chinese government is also reviewing loan applications for infrastructure priority projects, including the $53.6-million Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Cagayan and Kalinga provinces, the $374-million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon province, and the $3.01-billion south line of the North-South Railway.

Since he assumed presidency, Duterte has been seeking closer ties with China.

He will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the April 10 forum to discuss business and other cooperation matters.

"I just simply love Xi Jinping. He understood, he understands my problem, and he's willing to help. And I would like to say thank you, China," Duterte said.

READ: Duterte to hold bilateral talks with China's Xi this April

Duterte also said he might bring up the issue of the West Philippine Sea with Xi.

"Well it depends. If I feel there is a need to, and if we intrude now in the business of exploration and development, I might say my piece also on the matter," Duterte said.

The South China Sea is one of the most disputed regions in the world — with China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines having overlapping claims there. China has built artificial islands on the Paracel and Spratly island groups as part of its nine-dash line ownership claim in the area.

Duterte has so refused raising an international court's ruling in 2016 upholding the Philippines' claims over the contested islands.

The Boao Forum for Asia is an annual gathering of government and business leaders in the region to promote and deepen economic exchange, coordination, and cooperation within Asia and between Asia and other parts of the world.

Boao in China's Hainan province has been its meeting site since 2002. Then President Fidel Ramos was among a number of world leaders who proposed the networking forum in 1998.