MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has ordered the Department of Transport to renegotiate loan deals his predecessor made with China for rail projects worth $4.90 billion, an official said on Saturday. responsible.
Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said official development assistance loan agreements for the three projects had been deemed ‘withdrawn’ after the Chinese government ‘failed to respond to funding requests ” made by the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Chavez said other financing options were also being considered for the projects worth 276 billion Philippine pesos: the Subic-Clark railway project, the Philippine National Railways long-haul project and the Davao-Digos segment of the Mindanao Railway Project.
Options include tapping private capital through a public-private partnership, he said.
Asked for comment, a Chinese official said on condition of anonymity: “I can say that China-Philippine cooperation on railways will continue. China is open to talks with the Philippines.”
Of more than 1,100 km (680 miles) before World War II, the Philippines had only 77 km of operational railways in 2016, well behind other urban centers in Asia, according to government data.
Negotiations for the rail projects began in 2018, under Duterte’s administration, which has pursued warmer ties with Beijing, setting aside a long-running territorial dispute over the South China Sea in exchange for billions of dollars in aid, loans and investment promises, including for its infrastructure program.
Marcos pledged to defend national sovereignty but stressed the need to strengthen ties with China in other areas.
($1 = 56.2700 Philippine pesos)
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by William Mallard)