'Can you lend more?' Duterte asks ADB to fund more infra projects

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte asked the Asian Develoment Bank (ADB) to offer more loans to finance his Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

"I've never had a crowd with so much money. Can you lend more?" Duterte greeted the audience at the 51st Annual ADB Meeting on Saturday, May 5, before reading a prepared speech. 

The ADB is the country's 3rd largest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA), following Japan and the World Bank.

"We cannot thank you enough.... We shall continue to rely on the ADB for financial assistance, be it in the form of loans or grants," Duterte said in his speech. 

The country registered an average of 6.8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth since Duterte assumed office. He promised to sustain the growth rate. 

"This will enable us to achieve and sustain our goal of bringing down poverty rate to only 14% by 2022," he said.  

Duterte said the infrastructure projects will go hand in hand with his campaigns to fix the country's transportation system, stop corruption, and fight illegal drugs.

"The fight will be relentless. Fair warning," he added. 

Duterte's government pushed an ambitious infrastructure program that aims to increase investment to 7.5% of GDP by 2022.

The President said he aims to match or even surpass the infrastructure base of neighboring economies to allow the country to compete for investments. 

"The Philippines is waiting to break out from its shell to claim its place among the region's economic giants," he said. 

He added: "We build build and build, and we link link and link. That is the battle cry of the moment. We will build and link all these islands and all these communites."

At the Annual ADB Meeting, Duterte reiterated the need to pour investments in Mindanao so that his resource-rich home region may lead the nation's growth. 

"[Progress] does not mean much until it trickles down to the needy and destitute," he said. 

Duterte also pushed his foreign policy pivot.

"Asia's development progress shows us it is futile to simply mimic the West. We have to find our own way to the challenges of the age, and focus on policies that befit the Asian mind," he said.

"The next few years will be interesting times for [the] region. There is a time when Asia will lead the world and provide an example to other developing economies. The ADB will play a key role in this process," Duterte added. – Rappler.com