Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 20 April 2024


Philippines Wants US, Japan to Take Over Rail Deal Eyed by China



    A Philippine freight railway project may be built with the support of the US and Japan, an official in charge of it said, as Manila seeks alternative financing deals after dropping funding talks with China.

    The 50-billion-peso ($868 million) Subic-Clark railway, which will link the former US military bases turned commercial hubs, is being pitched to form part of the Luzon Economic Corridor, a planned showcase of economic cooperation between the US, Japan and the Philippines that was hatched during the first trilateral summit among its leaders last week at the White House.

    “Hopefully they take it and invest here,” Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, said in a interview on Friday, referring to the US and Japan. The agency oversees the development of former military bases.

    The Philippines said last year that it would no longer pursue Chinese loans to fund three projects, including the 71-kilometer Subic-Clark railway, amid lack of progress from the Chinese side. Manila’s move came amid souring ties between the Philippines and China over competing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

    US President Joe Biden, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. launched the Luzon Economic Corridor during their April 11 meeting and a trilateral event to promote investment in the project is being planned at the US-led Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Manila in May.

    The Philippines said it hopes to generate around $100 billion in investments in the next five to 10 years following the Washington summit.

    The project aims to boost connectivity between Subic Bay and Clark, Manila, and Batangas province in the country’s main Luzon island and accelerate investments in infrastructure projects, including rail, ports, clean energy, semiconductor supply chains and agribusiness.

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    “We have not abandoned the Subic-Clark railway project,” Lorenzana said. A former defense secretary, Lorenzana said he’s “more comfortable” if the US and Japan would take over the project.

    “If not them, maybe South Korea, or other countries that are friendly to us,” he said. The government is also considering seeking funding from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, he added.

    Lorenzana said BCDA projects that may be included in the Luzon Economic Corridor include the construction of Clark International Airport’s second runway, seen to cost around $174 million and a 64-hectare Clark National Food Terminal hub, which seeks to make the Southeast Asian nation a leading agricultural resource hub in the region. The food terminal is estimated to cost $152 million.

    Subic and Clark are “very strategic” locations that can host industries from logistics to manufacturing, he said.

    “Subic is one of the few deep-water ports that can accommodate any size of vessel and it’s safe from typhoon while Clark has a huge space,” Lorenzana said. “And we have the ready manpower that can be trained to do the job.”

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    Xi Orders China’s Biggest Military Reorganization Since 2015

      The restructuring comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces off with the US in a fight for global sway.
      The restructuring comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces off with the US in a fight for global sway. Photographer: AFP/Getty Images
      By Bloomberg News
      Updated on


      Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered what amounts to the biggest reorganization of the nation’s military since 2015 in a move that affects the force in charge of capabilities including cyber warfare.

      China will terminate the Strategic Support Force, which was created more than eight years ago to enhance capabilities in space, cyber, political and electronic warfare, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

      Xi is in turn creating a new branch called the Information Support Force. The aerospace and cyber units previously under the Strategic Support Force will now be organizationally parallel to the newly created Information Support Force, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The aerospace unit will improve China’s capability to use space and step up the management of space crises, the ministry said.

      The restructuring comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces off with the US in a fight for global influence, with cyber warfare emerging as a key battleground. The US, UK and New Zealand accused China last month of sponsoring malicious cyber activity in targeting democratic institutions.

      Reiterating the Communist Party’s leadership over the army, Xi said that the new force will provide “key support in coordinating the construction and utilization of the cyber information system.”

      Li Wei, the political commissar from the now-defunct Strategic Support Force, will take that same role with the Information Support Force. He pledged to “resolutely” listen to Xi’s instructions. The new commander of the Information Support Force is Bi Yi, state television CCTV reported.

      Cyber Tensions

      The changes are aimed at better adapting China’s military to the “informatization” conditions of modern warfare, said Cao Weidong, a retired senior researcher at the PLA Naval Research Academy. The restructuring will lead to “better deployment” of satellite systems, cyberspace, and when conducting electronic warfare, Cao told reporters on the sidelines of the West Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao.

      The previous commander of the Strategic Support Force was Ju Qiansheng, whose disappearance had spurred speculation that he was linked to the broader turmoil in China’s military leadership that’s unfolded over the past year. While Ju has recently resurfaced, state media hasn’t made clear his current position.

      The latest revamp follows a sweeping purge by Xi of the military establishment last year. US intelligence experts viewed that move as a response to the discovery of widespread corruption in the military, including in the Rocket Force, which manages the country’s expanding nuclear arsenal.

      Former Defense Minister Li Shangfu was ousted from his role without explanation in October. China named Dong Jun, a navy veteran, as the new defense chief in December.

      — With assistance from Josh Xiao, Jing Li, and Emma Dong

      (Adds comments in the seventh paragraph.)


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