MANILA, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines gained "real and actual benefits" from joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday, predicting the Philippines will continue to reap the benefits from China's initiative.
Lopez told Xinhua during a press conference arranged by the Philippine Presidential Communications Operations Office that the Philippines' active participation in the BRI has brought more investments and trade to the country.
"A lot of (Chinese) investments have come in. In terms of numbers what used to be a very minuscule level of investments of about 50 million U.S. dollars about two to three years ago, it's now close to about a billion U.S. dollars," Lopez said.
According to the data from the Philippine Board of Investments, China topped the list of foreign investors in the Philippines in 2018 with 48.7 billion pesos (about 936 million U.S. dollars) worth of investments.
The trade and industry secretary said the Philippines is expecting more investments from China.
"Chinese investors become an active participant in this current aggressive program of President (Rodrigo) Duterte with respect to infrastructure development called 'Build, Build, Build'," Lopez said, referring to the government's goal of ushering in a "golden age of infrastructure" with a massive infrastructure program.
The Philippine government keeps receptive to China's BRI given its congruence with the "Build, Build, Build" program.
Under the "Build, Build, Build" program, the Duterte administration intends to spend eight to nine trillion pesos, or roughly 160 to 180 billion U.S. dollars in the medium term. As a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the government estimates infrastructure spending to rise from 5.4 percent of GDP in 2017 to as high as 7.3 percent of GDP in 2022.
Moreover, Lopez said the Philippines also gained in the trading sector since it joined the BRI.
"China has become our number one trading partner," he said, adding that efforts are underway to increase the volume of agricultural products exported to China like tropical fruits.
"They basically opened up more market access to allow our agriculture products. These are real and actual benefits, gains that continue to happen. So more trading, more exports to China," he added.
Lopez said the Philippines is looking forward to its participation in the China International Import Expo again for the second time later this year. "That again would open up more Philippine products to enter the Chinese market," he said.