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Join AIIB.

All success stories of nations that have been lifted from the depths of poverty and propelled to sustainable heights of economic prosperity have a common denominator- hard and soft infrastructure. The roads, bridges, ports, storage bins, factories linked to a universal educational system, network of social services institutions like hospitals and community health centers and a facilitative and effective governance system transform a moribund economy to a robust and inclusive engine of growth. All that is needed is the political will backed by adequate funds.

With this in mind, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang announced during their respective visits to Southeast Asian countries in October 2013, the initiative of establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB, a modern knowledge-based institution, will focus on the development of infrastructure and other productive sectors in Asia, including energy and power, transportation and telecommunications, rural infrastructure and agricultural development, water supply and sanitation, environmental protection, urban development and logistics, among others.

In cooperation with existing multilateral development banks (MDBs), AIIB will jointly address the challenging infrastructure needs in Asia. AIIB welcomes all regional and non-regional countries, developing or developed economies reflecting its multilateral nature and commitment to openness and inclusiveness. AIIB and its network not only seek to contribute to Asian infrastructure development but more importantly to regional connectivity.

In October, 2014, 22 Asian countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish AIIB. In November, 2014 discussions among Prospective Founding Members (PFMs)(57 as listed in the AIIB website, which I have used as reference) commenced, followed by more discussions focusing on the Articles of Agreement (AoA) in Mumbai, India in January 2015, in Almaty, Kazakhstan in March 2015 and in Beijing in April 2015. The final text of the AoA was adopted on May 22, 2015 in Singapore.

On June 29, 2015 in Beijing 50 PFMs signed the Bank's Articles of Agreement at the Great Hall of the People, including Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Luxemberg, Maldives, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Among the prospective founding members, only Kuwait, Thailand, Poland, South Africa and the Philippines have not signed. The Articles remain open for signing by PFMs until December 31, 2015 and the AIIB is expected to become operational by the end of 2015.

Given the needs of the Philippines for a massive infrastructure development, it is puzzling why up to today, the Philippines has not signed the Articles of Agreement. Is it because of the still ongoing territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea? But why should we allow political issues to override actions that definitely are in the best interests of the Filipino people. Is it because the United States of America is not listed as a prospective founding member? But why should we allow our foreign policy to be captive to American interests when being an AIIB PFM translates to the possibility of massive funding from AIIB. Or has the Aquino administration forgotten the December 15 deadline?

The coming APEC Summit in Manila is a golden opportunity for the Philippines to sign the AoA. Delegates to APEC as well as the international media that expectedly will cover such a significant global event will then be assured that the ongoing, unfinished construction works all over Manila is just the initial stage of the country's determination to put in place the infrastructure for sustainable growth.

Let the Philippines join AIIB and be part of the interconnectivity and economic integration of the Asian economy!

melito.jr@gmail.com

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Title Annotation:Business News
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 12, 2015
Words:635
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