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Talks with China on rail projects, maritime cooperation resume

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Talks with China on rail projects, maritime cooperation resume
The Philippines resumes talks with China on infrastrtucture projects as well as maritime projects, the Department of Transportation said Sunday.
Facebook / Department of Transportation

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has resumed its transportation development talks with China and is now also looking into pursuing maritime cooperation projects. 

The Department of Transportation on Sunday said Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista met with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian at the Chinese Embassy in Makati last week, where they “agreed to restart negotiations for major transport projects.” 

This includes the major China-funded railway projects previously reported terminated, including the Philippine National Railway South Long Haul Project or the PNR Bicol, the Subic-Clark Railway Project, and the Mindanao Railway.

In a separate statement, China said it is committed to helping other Southeast Asian countries develop their railway sector.

“We had a constructive discussion about China-Philippines infrastructure cooperation, in particular railway cooperation,” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said on Friday. 

“[I] hope that China-Philippines cooperation in infrastructure and railway would achieve more tangible fruits and bring about more benefits to the Filipino at an early date.”

Negotiations

Former finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III terminated the country’s loan applications that were supposed to fund the railway projects after Beijing did not act on the documents filed by the Philippines. 

When asked to resume negotiations with China, Transport Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said he was warned by Dominguez that Beijing would charge a three percent interest, much higher than the 0.1% Japan was looking to charge Manila. 

Chavez said then that the government already asked China for a more competitive rate. 

READ: China wants 3% interest on Philippines railway projects loan 

Last month, China was negotiating “technical issues” with the Philippines’ infrastructure financing.

Maritime cooperation

Meanwhile, the transport department also said they discussed possible maritime cooperation projects. 

The department said they talked about a hotline communication and legal affairs cooperation between the two countries’ coast guards but did not disclose further details. 

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests with China over incidents, including the Chinese coast guard's use of water cannons against boats sent to resupply Philippine Marines on Ayungin Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea.

The government has said it will stand firm on Philippine rights in the part of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf but has acknowledged that relations with China go beyond the maritime dispute.

Meanwhile, the transport department said they are looking into working with Beijing on capacity building for maritime governance, safety supervision, and vessels safety inspection. 

The two countries also talked about a possible collaboration on Maritime Traffic Safety and Ferry Safety, as well as a memorandum of understanding on maritime search and rescue efforts.

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