U.S. companies to take part in 'Build, Build, Build'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) — The United States is supporting the Duterte administration's ambitious infrastructure program, its ambassador to Manila said Tuesday.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on Tuesday said American private companies will take part in "major" infrastructure projects under the Philippines' "Build, Build, Build" program, which targets to roll out a total of 75 projects until 2022.

"We understand and applaud the Philippine government's focus on infrastructure development and we want to support that effort as mush as possible," Kim said in a media briefing to cap off the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue between the Philippines and U.S.

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez confirmed that among the issues discussed in the two-day dialogue in Manila was the U.S. participation in infrastructure projects, including the development of the New Clark City in Tarlac province. Touted as the country's next economic hub, the facility spans 9,450 hectares and is expected to decongest Metro Manila.

The National Economic and Development Authority has approved 37 of 75 "Build, Build, Build" projects worth ₱1.564 trillion, including 14 which are expected to be completed within President Rodrigo Duterte's term which ends 2022.

Most of these projects are funded by loans from the Export-Import Bank of China and Japan International Cooperation Agency and Asian Development Bank. Construction contracts were awarded to companies from China and Japan.

Romualdez earlier told CNN Philippines' that the U.S. Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development Act, passed in 2018, could pour in billions of dollars for infrastructure projects in the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines.

READ: New U.S. law seen to aid PH infrastructure

The government has been urged to tap U.S. help as critics fear the billions worth of loans and pledges from China would force the country into a debt trap – something both Manila and Beijing officials denied.

"We welcome progress on legislation which could provide more opportunities for U.S. companies, especially in infrastructure, as part of the Build, Build, Build program," David Stilwell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in a statement.