The Philippines is opening the golden age of infrastructure

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man - The Philippine Star

Last week, President Duterte and I broke ground for the construction of the Panguil Bay Bridge, which, once completed, will be the longest bridge in the Philippines. This project is supported by the Korean government through its Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of $100 million. The bridge will cut travel time between Tangub and Tubod from two and a half hours to just seven minutes, thereby contributing to the local economy by reducing transportation costs as well as facilitating people-to-people exchange. I sincerely hope that this project will turn into a symbol of the strong partnership between our two countries.

In spite of the Philippines’ rapid development, its economy still has plenty of room for further growth. With more than 100 million citizens, the country has a massive domestic market. It is also an attractive investment destination due to a young and English speaking workforce. Add to these the exceptional beauty of its natural environment that attracts huge numbers of tourists and there is no doubt that the Philippines has the potential to be a more prosperous country with better infrastructure.

In this context, it is timely and appropriate that President Duterte established “Ambisyon Natin 2040” and embarked on a “Build, Build, Build” program to improve infrastructure in the Philippines. By planning the 75 flagship projects with $160 billion and aiming to complete 32 of them by 2022, the Philippines is now opening the “Golden Age of Infrastructure.” This will clearly push the nation toward the right track of achieving “AmbisyonNatin 2040.” In this regard, Korea is ready and willing to fully support all efforts to boost infrastructure in order to reach the full potential of the Philippine economy.

Actually, our bilateral cooperation on infrastructure has been smoothly cruising for many years. Filipino engineers once assisted in building Korea’s gymnasium and government complexes in the 1960s. Hanjin Heavy Industries constructed a huge shipyard in Subic and has contributed to creating jobs for local people by hiring more than 24,000 workers. In addition, the combined-cycle power plant in Ilijan, Batangas, which Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has been operating since 2002, has been producing more than 10 percent of the electricity consumed in Luzon.

Apart from the active investment of Korean companies, the Korean government has also been actively supporting the Philippines. Our two governments signed a $1 billion soft loan arrangement last May 4, and this commitment will finance multiple infrastructure projects in the Philippines until 2022 with the EDCF. The first one is the Cebu International Container Port Project worth $170 million, which will decongest the existing Cebu port with the construction of a new container port. Furthermore, the $200 million Jalaur River Multipurpose Project in Iloilo includes the construction of the biggest dam outside of Luzon to improve food production and flood mitigation. I hope these EDCF projects will contribute to the country’s economic development and the improvement of the lives of many Filipinos.

With the Philippine government’s firm commitment for better infrastructure and Korean President Moon’s vision of “New Southern Policy”– which tries to enhance relations with ASEAN nations through cooperation on the 3Ps (People, Prosperity and Peace) – there will be more opportunities to for us to achieve co-prosperity through cooperation on infrastructure.

I hope that our two countries, bound by history, could truly make this era the “Golden Age of Cooperation on Infrastructure.” Let us work together toward a bright future.

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