Chinese firms interested in Cagayan

By Melissa Luz Lopez, CNN Philippines

Cagayan has become a new attraction for Chinese businesses, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Tuesday.

Six of the 19 deals signed between Chinese and Philippine businessmen during the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing last week involve setting up shop in that part of Northern Luzon. Officials said all the deals are worth a total of $12.2 billion.

They include the creation of the Asparas Yacht Club, a Green Textile Industry Park, the proposed expansion of the Cagayan North International Airport, an integrated resort with theme parks and lithium battery factory, a proposed smart city, and a financial center and hotel-resort complex all within the Cagayan Freeport and Special Economic Zone.

“There’s a good upside in that area and there’s a good potential untapped. Chinese investors or any investor will really look at this place,” Lopez told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Other agreements involve putting up the South Pulangi hydroelectric power plant, a petrochemical refinery plant in Davao Occidental, and an iron processing plant in Agusan del Norte.

The Cabinet official added that Secretary Raul Lambino has been aggressive in pushing for more projects as administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.

Cagayan is in the northernmost part of the Philippines, and is south of Taiwan and of coastal provinces of Mainland China.

Apart from that, Lopez also noted that some projects are looking to cash in on local tourism.

“Tourism in the Philippines is really a winning sector. That’s where the Philippines can differentiate itself, maganda ang mga tourism investments,” he said.

That is seen in deals inked to develop the Grande and Chiquita islands in Subic, plus the Cagayan-based yacht club and theme parks in the works.

Lopez added that the signed business deals are ready to go — which, once in place, can generate at least 21,000 jobs as early as the construction phase.

The Trade chief also dispelled fears that the Chinese will come in and take these new opportunities from Filipinos, saying that the assurance came from the People’s Republic of China themselves.

Unang-una, sinabi ni President Xi Jinping sa ating Pangulong Duterte: obviously, Filipino jobs will be encouraged, sila talaga ‘yung priority doon,” Lopez said.

[Translation: “First of all, President Xi Jinping told our President Duterte: obviously, Filipino jobs will be encouraged, they are really the priority.”]

Some critics have flagged the growing presence of workers from China taking jobs in the Philippines, with a labor group reporting sightings of Chinese construction workers in the country.

Lopez clarified that only “highly technical” positions will be reserved for Chinese employees, with the rest up for grabs for Filipinos.

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