MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Cavite officials and their partner Chinese construction corporations finally got to present their plan for a Sangley international airport to President Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing, China.
Led by Cavite Governor Juanito Victor "Jonvic" Remulla Jr, they were among those who paid a courtesy call on Duterte during his 5th visit to China.
The courtesy calls took place on Friday, August 30, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Beijing.
According to a source privy to the meeting, the Cavite officials, the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC), and a group led by businessman Luis "Buboy" Virata presented their plans for an international airport in Sangley Point, Cavite.
The Cavite provincial government is partnering with CCCC, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, for the airport project.
Duterte appeared "generally supportive" of the plans, which will have to go through other processes of government approval and permitting, the source added.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Sangley Point International Airport was the subject of a meeting among "officials of the local government unit of Cavite," Cavitex Holdings, CCCC, and China Airport Construction Group Company Ltd.
The Cavite provincial government has been given "no objection" from the DOTr "to immediately implement the project," Remulla told Rappler in a message on Monday, September 2.
"All technical studies for the project have been completed, and the province is preparing to begin the process for tender to possible joint venture partners," he added.
He said the Cavite government is projecting a 3-year timetable to complete the 1st phase of the project.
Asked to describe the involvement of the Chinese corporations at the meeting, Remulla said, "They are prospective partners who are fully committed to be part of the joint venture."
There is no contract yet for the project, however.
During the meeting in Beijing, Duterte had "once again reiterated the need to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)," said Panelo.
Back in June, Duterte ordered the Department of Transportation to transfer some NAIA flights to Sangley Point Air Base or Danilo Atienza Air Base by November 2019 to decongest the major air transport hub. At the time, the DOTr had been waiting for the completion of construction at the air base in order to transfer the flights.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade later on said the construction would be completed by September, allowing the transfer of flights then.
But the Cavite government's plan is for Sangley Point air base to be developed into an international airport to spur economic growth in the province and Calabarzon region.
Back in May 2018, the Cavite government said the $10-billion airport project would be implemented with the help of Chinese companies through Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to a PhilStar report.
The BRI is a global infrastructure plan in which China and partner countries build roads, transport hubs, bridges, and railways to connect the Asian, European, and African economies. Massive funding will come from Chinese banks while the construction is often implemented by Chinese companies. Duterte has expressed support for the initiative, a brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and has attended two BRI fora.
Ramon Tulfo's group
Aside from the Cavite group, private Chinese nationals and Chinese businessmen also got an audience with Duterte on Friday with the help of Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China Ramon Tulfo, a highly-placed source told Rappler.
Panelo made no mention of Tulfo in his statement about the courtesy calls. He only said the meeting involved "selected business leaders of the Chinese International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector."
Duterte talked to them about "the opportunities in our growing economy" and thanked them for their "trust" in his administration.
Panelo did not give the names of the Chinese businessmen.
Sid Consunji and PH construction firms
The first courtesy call made that day, however, was by Philippine construction companies led by DMCI CEO and president Sid Consunji.
The group presented the "Philippine Construction Roadmap" that they developed with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It outlines a plan from 2020 to 2030 to raise the industry's revenue to P130 trillion in 10 years and to institutionalize infrastructure development within the same time period.
Duterte, in his speech at a business forum later that day, promoted the construction industry roadmap to Chinese executives.
"This is the first time ever Philippine construction mission to China. They are here to benchmark on digital building technologies and deliver quality construction in the most efficient and effective manner," he said.
He said Philippine construction firms would be eager to partner with Chinese firms for future projects. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.