January 23, 2017 2:35 pm JST

Philippine officials in China to negotiate $15bn in business deals

Duterte steps up push to lure foreign investment amid 'separation' from US

CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writer

MANILA -- Key Philippine cabinet officials are in China for a two-day visit through Tuesday to work out details of the $15 billion worth of investment deals that President Rodrigo Duterte bagged while in Beijing last year.

The delegation includes Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, the Finance department said on Sunday.

The Philippine officials will separately meet Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng and National Development and Reform Commission Chairman Xu Shaoshi. They also plan to meet top officials of sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp.

They will discuss bilateral deals signed between by China and the Philippines last October, when Duterte made a four-day state visit to Beijing. Duterte's trip yielded $24 billion in deals, of which $9 billion are in the form of credit facilities and the rest through investments pledges.

Apart from infrastructure projects proposed during the visit, the officials will also discuss the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year and its membership in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The trip follows a visit by a Chinese delegation to Manila in November, when they agreed to establish "structures of coordination" to implement the investment pledges.

Since coming to power on June 30, Duterte has steered a dramatic shift in foreign policy, reaching out to China -- with which the country has a territorial dispute in the South China Sea -- and Russia, while announcing a "separation" from the U.S., a longtime treaty ally.

The change has seen the Philippines, hungry for foreign direct investment, win investment pledges from Beijing and -- according to Duterte -- offers from Moscow for discounted arms.

To counter China's diplomatic courtship with the Philippines, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 1 trillion yen ($8.7 billion) in official development assistance and investment over the next five years during his visit to Manila earlier this month.

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