Philippines drops China’s Belt and Road as tensions flare
By Tommy Walker
08 November 2023
The Philippines in late October became the latest country to back out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with Transport Minister Jaime Bautista telling reporters the sudden withdrawal came after Beijing did not respond to funding requests on railway projects.
China had pledged almost $5 billion (€4.7 billion) to build three rail lines — two in Luzon and one in Mindanao — under the BRI, a keystone of Beijing’s foreign policy offering Chinese-backed loans for major infrastructure projects mostly in developing parts of the world.
However, China and the Philippines have been locked in a years-long dispute over maritime territory in the South China Sea, which China has claimed in its entirety.
In the most recent incident, a Chinese coast guard ship rammed a Philippine fishing vessel in contested waters near Second Thomas Shoal.
However, Philippine officials did not mention territorial tension as the reason behind the pull out.
Don McLain Gill, a geopolitical analyst and lecturer in international studies at De La Salle University in Manila, told DW that there are also funding delays for six other projects, including a closed-circuit television project, the New Centennial Water Source, the Kaliwa Dam Project, and the Philippine National Railway’s South Long Haul Project.
“The decision to withdraw from these projects can be assumed to be motivated by issues centered on their sustainability and the mounting concerns brought by Beijing’s unwillingness to act like a responsible neighbor,” he said.