‘Traffic powers for Duterte to boost Phl tourism, trade’
Helen Flores, (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2017 - 12:16am

DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – Granting President Duterte emergency powers to address the worsening traffic crisis will boost tourism and trade in the country, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said yesterday.

“There is a very strong sense of urgency. As you all know, the infrastructure projects, they cannot be done overnight,” Zhao said in a televised speech from Davao City, where he attended a business forum.

“We must hurry. We have to get it done within the presidential term. We are quite afraid of taking up projects that go beyond the presidential term. That will mean a lot of challenges and uncertainties,” he said.

He added more than a million Chinese are expected to visit the Philippines before the end of the year, and such scenario would require adequate infrastructure facilities.

Congress is still deliberating on the measure granting the President emergency powers. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez stressed such powers for the President would only be used to address traffic concerns.

The proposed emergency powers seek to shorten the procurement process, ban lower courts from issuing temporary restraining orders on projects and suspend certain local ordinances for three years.

Zhao also said China’s investments and loans to the Philippines in the coming years would be “even greater” than its earlier commitment of $6 billion in soft loans and $3-billion in credit line.

“We will try to make sure these projects are going to be corruption-free,” he said.

Corruption allegations stopped previous infrastructure deals with China, including a $329-million national broadband network project and the $500-million Northrail, designed to connect the capital to provinces in the north.

Zhao said there was a “strong possibility” the Philippines and China would break ground on three projects, including a train line from Manila to Legazpi City.

He said the Philippines offered 40 projects to China, of which 15 are for financing and 25 for assistance on feasibility studies.

The Chinese ambassador also cited the need for Asia-Pacific countries to work together to ensure peace and stability in the region and prevent a conflict scenario similar to the one in the Middle East.

“It is important to keep this region, the Asia-Pacific, as safe and stable as possible,” Zhao said in the business forum held at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel yesterday.

“We cannot allow our region to be suffering what the Middle East is suffering,” Zhao said.

The Chinese ambassador also revealed Duterte has agreed to attend the One Belt, One Road economic forum in Beijing in May which will be attended by 31 world leaders.

ZHAO JIANHUA
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