The Philippines has a unique problem: so many Chinese contractors want a piece of its gargantuan infrastructure boom – and are offering billions of dollars in finance to open the door – that it has asked the Chinese government to help weed out the undesirables.
They are lured by President Rodrigo Duterte’s "Build, Build, Build" campaign, said to total $180bn in value, which seeks to upgrade ports, roads, rail links and irrigation.
Duterte has already approved the auction of 21 projects worth $16bn, including the overhaul of Manila’s airport and a railway line on the southern island of Mindanao.
The surge comes after Duterte pivoted to China and away from the US last year, going to its larger neighbour with a shopping list of transport, energy and other infrastructure schemes.
So great is the interest that China’s Commerce Ministry has pledged to screen Chinese contractors and assign just three candidates to each project, Reuters reports.
"There are so many contractors and if we deal with them individually, we’ll run out of time," Philippine Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told Reuters in an interview last week.
Manila, he said, was "inundated" by the approaches, and he had asked China to help stem the flow and weed out the unreliable ones.
Diokno said Chinese firms had already pledged "something like $9 billion" for infrastructure projects they wanted to be involved in, a figure he called "notional".
He signalled a willingness to let those contractors bring their own workers, as well, since the domestic labour force was already stretched.
"We might run out of labour," he told Reuters. "These projects, our projection is that they will create something like a million jobs. And the contractors are already complaining they don’t have enough labour."
He added: "Our priority is to have those projects completed, rather than playing to the demands of Filipino workers."
Photograph: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 20 October 2016 (Philippine Government/Wikimedia Commons)