Trade Secretary: Agreements with Japan to generate 250,000 jobs

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines)About 250,000 jobs will be created in the Philippines in the next few months, thanks to nearly two billion dollars worth of deals inked in Japan, a top trade official said Tuesday.

"The $1.85 billion is estimated to generate about 250,000 jobs over the next two years," Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez told CNN Philippines' "The Source."

The $1.85 billion is contained in 12 letters of interest signed among private companies.

It was part of $19 billion dollars worth of deals that President Rodrigo Duterte and his delegation brought home from the official visit to Japan a week ago.

The remaining $17 billion is a verbal pledge from Marubeni Corp., a trading company with operations in the Philippines.

Lopez said the amount included ventures in manufacturing, solar energy, optical stabilization in cell phones, and egg production.

Marubeni intends to contribute to medium-term infrastructure projects, including roads and airports.

Japan's intended pursuits include manufacturing and technology.

Under the Department of Trade and Industry's Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy  program, foreign companies are encouraged to produce cars in the Philippines instead of importing them, which will create opportunities for local suppliers.

"When they produce here, you are now encouraging local parts manufacturers in the country... to put up their operation to supply (the cars)," said Lopez.

Lopez says Toyota agreed to produce the Toyota Vios and Mitsubishi agreed to produce the Mirage model here. The automotive strategy program was signed in an Executive Order last year.

Japan has been a top donor and trade partner of the Philippines, accounting for 15.5 percent of trade this year.

Related: Duterte says Japan 'closer than brother'

Philippines boosting regional cooperation

The deals from Japan are the latest following Duterte's state visits to Brunei and China.

"You can have a sense that the president is really trying to strengthen the regional cooperation within this part of the world," said Lopez.

Duterte previously returned with $13.5 billion worth of deals from China.

Concerns about the agreements were raised after one company was reportedly blacklisted by the World Bank and another involved in a venture in the disputed South China Sea.

Related: Government says infra deals haven't been committed to China

Lopez maintains that they were not aware of these, as the involved companies were recommended by the Chinese government.

The partnerships have yet to be formalized, and the Chinese companies will conduct feasibility studies.

The government would exercise due diligence in choosing the partnerships to enter into, Lopez said.

"Given that new information, obviously we'll have to review all what's on the table," he said. "And (those) LOIs and (memoranda of understanding), they have (an) escape clause... if you want to pursue it or not. That's no problem to us."

Duterte is set to visit Malaysia next, where the peace process and the trade of halal are expected to be discussed.