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Will the Philippines benefit from Belt & Road?

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

03-28-2017 14:22 BJT

Editor's foreword: CCTV.com has invited foreign experts, business people and students to submit articles or short videos on China's Belt & Road Initiative (B&R), to share opinions on B&R or stories with China. We are featuring a special series on the topic for our readers.

By Brian U. Doce, Master’s graduate student from the Philipppines based in Changchun, Jilin Province

A fresh but uncertain future lies ahead for countries in East Asia and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as the Philippines and United States have welcomed new leaders.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte altered the political landscape of bilateral relations with China and other countries in the region by pursuing a so-called "independent" foreign policy. Manila is moving closer to Beijing and weakening its decades' old alliance with Washington.

Duterte endorses stronger cooperation with China on ambitious Belt & Road Initiative projects. Initially, the Philippines had not been included on the Maritime Silk Road in Southeast Asia, but Manila was given the option to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Under former President Benigno Aquino's leadership, he had steered the domestic economy to higher annual GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates. Credit rating agencies gave the country good scores, which had attracted more foreign direct investment.

Nonetheless, increased GDP growth rates did not translate into vital developmental projects that benefited ordinary citizens. The nation struggles with a lack of infrastructure, unfair public policies, bureaucratic corruption and impediments to the ease-of-doing business.

The Philippine agricultural sector remains unsustainable, which needs more export markets for its banana and mangoes. The country is importing rice from Vietnam. The agricultural industry needs a proper irrigation systems, has to cope with the mismanagement of land distribution, and faces a lack of infrastructure particularly on market road access.

Philippine manufacturing is sluggish. Traditional manufacturing companies are leaving small and medium scale ventures behind. Long-established centralized planning has enabled cronyism and corruption.

The Philippines lack the necessary technology to harness its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Following the logic of flying geese model of the Japanese economist Kaname Akamatsu, the Philippines will definitely benefit from China in regards to patents and scientific breakthroughs. China has the potential to compete against Japan to become the "lead goose” in the East Asia region.

The Philippines remain dependent on Asian benefactors for funding domestic infrastructure development. Three major railways of the Philippines came from China's development aid. Duterte would like to construct a major railway connecting all Philippine islands through Chinese aid.

Accordingly, the Philippines should appeal to China to be included in the B&R.

More Infrastructure project development is probable via the AIIB. Beijing's development aid could help the Philippines to develop stability in the conflict-driven Mindanao region. The BIMP-EAGA (The Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) corridor where the Philippines is a participant can provide another leeway for China to coordinate its Maritime Silk Road.

The Mindanao Island is still an unexplored territory and the region is blessed with plenty of natural resources, but stands relatively impoverished due to the spread of radical Islamist terrorism.

Conversely, China will benefit in its cultural and political sphere of influence by boosting ties with the Philippines.

The Philippine economy has supported liberalization of markets as early as the end of the 1980s. Beijing should side with Manila in the B&R to overcome: rigid domestic economic policies in the Philippines and to establish a more positive image of China to Filipinos.

President Duterte has only served in office for nine months and he has more than five years to upgrade domestic political, social and economic conditions in the country, as well as to encourage more Filipinos to view China more favorably.

【Brian U. Doce, master graduate student from the Philipppines, based in Changchun, Jilin Province】

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)


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