WHILE some so-called experts in the Philippines continue to debate over whether to work with China on our infrastructure projects or raise warnings over China's new 3-percent interest rate amid higher rates for available financing elsewhere, many other countries are completing mega projects with China in record time.
When Americans and the rest of the world are having to pay record prices for food and energy, the US is delivering another $3 billion in military “aid” to Ukraine. The US is also illegally confiscating over $7 billion in savings from the Afghan people while Afghanistan faces the worst humanitarian and food crisis. The same anti-humanitarian sanctions were applied to Venezuela for over $9 billion, Iraq for $40 billion, Iran for $50 billion, and Russia for $300 billion. Allies are not spared; the US fined French Bank BNP Paribas $8.9 billion and Germany's Deutsche Bank $5 billion in 2014, among others. The Philippines isn't buying far cheaper Iranian or Russian oil or agri inputs and is at risk of losing P2 billion it made up for the down payment for the Russian helicopters due to US pressure. India did not cave in to US warnings to not buy Russian arms and even went ahead to buy more than 20 times as much energy purchases.
Did Rappler, Inquirer, PhilStar, CNN, ABS-CBN report on the US record of invasions, destabilization, and causing the collapse of countries? Or China forgiving 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations, after canceling $3.4 billion and restructuring $15 billion of debt from 2000 to 2019? China also forgave over $100 million for the canceled Northrail project. The time it took to sign (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) and cancel (President Benigno Aquino 3rd) the Northrail project was also about the same time that China finished the high-speed railway connecting Beijing and Shanghai at 1,300 kilometers. The 80-km Northrail Project was supposed to ferry 150,000 from Manila to Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
For the Philippines under Duterte's six years, the Filipinos received tens of billions in concessional loans for the mega Kaliwa Dam and Chico River Irrigation projects that were decades overdue. This is on top of China's donations, including over P7 billion for Manila's two newest bridges, and billions more for vaccines, medical supplies, rehabilitation centers and calamity assistance that not only protected millions of our kababayan but helped the economy open up months earlier and saved the country trillions, which Richard Heydarian seems to have completely missed in his article “Strategic reset: Marcos Jr. and China.”
The anti-China experts also fail to point out the successes, such as the successful Piraeus Port in Greece, the Angat Dam delivering water to Manila (finished ahead of schedule), and the loans that saved Hungary from a shutdown, among others.
Piraeus Port, a Chinese investment, in which Greece was almost crushed by the financial restrictions of the European Union — but the port that Italy had refused to take and was taken by Greece has become the fourth busiest port in all of Europe, on its way to becoming the third.
Is the Philippines lagging behind its neighbors, again?
Indonesia is set to have the first high-speed railway in Southeast Asia as it received the first set of 350 km/hr bullet trains from China designed to cut travel times between Jakarta and Bandung from over 3 hours to 40 minutes.
At the height of the pandemic in October 2020, Indonesian President Jokowi rejected repeated US high-level requests to refuel its P-8 Poseidon spy planes in Indonesia. (The Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia allow the US to use their countries). Around the same time, Jokowi sent his close confidant and coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Pandjaitan, to China to secure vaccine supplies. Indonesia not only secured 250 million doses of vaccines from all three Chinese vaccine producers, but it successfully positioned itself to be the co-producer of China's vaccines in Southeast Asia. This was months after medical and vaccine experts from China came to the Philippines to exchange best practices and explore cooperation.
Jokowi also invited Russia's President Vladimir Putin to the upcoming G20 Summit in Bali, amid strong opposition from the West.
In early 2022, the Laos-China Rail, stretching over 1,000 km traversing mountain ranges and water systems, was completed within 5 years, will cut travel time from Laos to China's border to 4 hours compared to the 15 hours by car, turning Laos from a landlocked country that was the least industrialized in Asean neighbors built the last links themselves into a land-linked hub to connect to the wider region already delivering hundreds of millions in fruits and produce to China. There are plans to connect the rail to Thailand and even extend to Singapore. The 134.8 km connecting Cambodia's capital to its coastal provinces was also completed in March 2022, and another 187-km expressway is slated to be completed this year.
Vietnam's first Metro railway despite its hot disputes with China integrated the full industry chain of Chinese standards, including billions of US dollars in manufacturing, investment, construction technology, equipment, materials, supervision and operational management — trained more than 6,000 technicians and employed over 20,000 people.
Initially canceled, renegotiated and reduced amid the changes in government, Malaysia's East Coast Rail Link is 30 percent complete and has since been expanded to almost the original plan. Malaysia and the China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC) established a program to recruit and train young Malaysians for the construction and operation of the project.
American cities working with China
Boston and Los Angeles are replacing their entire fleet of rail cars in partnership with a Chinese company (CRRC); Chicago and Philadelphia are following suit — the deliveries are happening amid the US-China trade war. US agencies said CRRC had the most competitive bids — sometimes besting competitors by hundreds of millions of dollars. “The biggest difference in the two proposals was cost,” said Brian Steele, spokesman for the Chicago Transit Authority. He said CRRC's bid was $226 million lower than [Canadian] Bombardier's offer, a difference equivalent to 146 more rail cars. The Chinese company will also build a $40-million final assembly facility in Chicago creating 170 local new jobs.
New Eurasian land bridge
Almost no report was made in the Philippines that China and Europe are physically connecting with the London-China and Yiwu-Madrid railway lines, spanning over 12,000 km and cutting travel time and cost by more than half, and bypassing using sea or air lanes.
Reality always catches up
Do the “experts” echo the fake news of China's “debt trap” and realize that they are causing delays in the development of our Philippines? Why have they not called out the lack of infrastructure projects from the US and Europe? In fact, the draconian closures of companies causing massive unemployment, takeovers for 10 cents to the dollar, and up to 45 percent interest rates, were imposed by US-led World Bank and IMF programs. More of Sri Lanka's debts are owed to US and Japan-led “development banks” than to China.
Recently, the Department of Transportation admitted that it considers China's official development assistance, or ODA, to be the “best option” for funding three major railway projects, and doubts whether Japan can finance additional infrastructure projects, according to Undersecretary Cesar Chavez. India's bullet train project with Japan faces a five-year delay due to high costs, as much as 90 percent higher than estimates, and low participation from Japan firms. The US extends billions of military “aid,” much of it in loans and paying US personnel. While all countries preach and promise, the Philippines have models of success to learn from and adopt even from our close neighbors, we don't have to go far or reinvent the wheel.
Austin Ong's research focuses on the Philippine development amid great power relations and regional development. He has assisted Philippine agencies in organizing training programs for Filipino entrepreneurs and taught global developments at De La Salle University.
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