In October 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China brought an earmarked $24 billion worth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development aid (ODA) for the Philippines. After signing the memoranda of understanding (MOUs), both supporters and detractors of the deal expected an uptick in Chinese investments and an expanded role for Chinese state-oriented enterprises (SOEs).
A year and a half later, newspapers have argued that the predicted boom has failed to materialize. Indeed, the prevailing media narrative is that China encouraged the Duterte administration to concede the South China Sea in exchange for an investment boom that has yet to come. While this perspective may have some merit, the point that Chinese investments have barely increased is simply untrue. According to actualized FDI data of the Central Bank of the Philippines, which is recorded by examining bank deposits and conducting surveys with investors, China and Hong Kong’s FDI inflows had already reached $1.04 billion by March 2018. This amount has surpassed the entirety of Chinese and Hong Kong investment received under President Gloria Arroyo ($828 million) and already reached five-sixths of the $1.2 billion under Benigno Aquino’s term.
Following this analysis, I suggest that there is a disconnect between the public expectation of what a “major investment boom” is and the actual financial changes that occurred...
This article was originally published in The Diplomat. To view the complete version, click here.
Alvin A. Camba is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Johns Hopkins University, a non-resident fellow at the Alberto Del Rosario Institute, and a research affiliate at the Middle Eastern Institute in the National University of Singapore