LOOK: Malacañang releases copy of PH, China MOU on Belt and Road Initiative

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FILE PHOTO. President Rodrigo Duterte with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 27) — The government has agreed to pursue projects under China's multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with "the strictest respect for national laws, rules, regulations, and policies."

This commitment was made in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries which was finally released by Malacañang on Monday.

The document states that it is only a "an expression" of the common aspiration of both nations and "does not create  legally binding obligations."

In the MOU, the Philippines and China agreed to cooperate in infrastructure, trade, investment development,  interconnectivity in the transportation, telecommunication, energy sectors, and other areas of mutual interest.  It  also allowed the use of the local currencies of both nations in bilateral trade and investment transactions.

The two countries also agreed to  hold regular dialogues on "key macroeconomic policies and development strategies" and work to develop socio-cultural exchanges by promoting "people-to-people exchanges, cultural cooperation, education, travel, and stronger communication between their people."

The MOU is effective until 2022 and may be renewed for another four years.

It was among the 29 documents signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the Philippines on November 20 and 21.

Introduced by Xi in 2013, the BRI is China's global initiative to revive its ancient Silk Road by connecting over 60 countries from different continents through infrastructure investments.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to attend the second edition of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April 2019 in Beijing on Xi's invitation. The President also attended the first Forum.

But while the MOU is seen to boost the government's ongoing infrastructure program, some sectors have expressed concern that the country may fall into a so-called "debt trap" with Beijing just like other countries that failed to pay their debts to the Asian power.

Sri Lanka, for example, handed over its Hambantota port to China in December 2017 for failing to pay decades-long lease.

Such concerns have been dismissed by both Philippine and China government officials.

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