As the Philippines decided to push through with infrastructure projects involving Chinese firms blacklisted by the US, Beijing’s envoy to Manila defended China’s intentions amid skepticisms that such projects will threaten the country’s security and will lead to a debt trap.
In a recent speech, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian pointed out some “groundless” and “misleading accusations” concerning Chinese-funded projects such as “Chinese projects security threat”, “China debt trap” and “China disrupted the COC consultation”.
“In fact, there is no any evidence that Chinese projects threaten the Philippines' security. Instead, these projects are contributing to your national building,” Huang said.
“According to the latest statistics, about 50 large-scale Chinese enterprises based in the Philippines have employed more than 18,000 Filipinos so far, and the number is expected to increase in the coming years,” he said.
Malacanang earlier announced that the government will push through as planned with the Sangley Airport Development project, which was bagged by China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) and Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp., despite the sanctions imposed by the US against Chinese firms associated with the building of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The US imposed sanctions and restrictions on at least 24 Chinese companies, including subsidiaries of CCCC, for taking part in building artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The Philippines will also push through with other projects by Chinese contractors.
Apart from the Sangley Airport project, Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications is also part of the consortium chosen to be the country’s third telco player —DITO Telecommunity.
China Harbour Engineering Corp, a unit of CCCC, is also partnering with Dennis Uy’s group for a P62-billion land reclamation project in Pasay City.
China Harbour is also tapped by SM Investments Corp for another reclamation project in Pasay worth P54 billion.
“As for China debt, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas(BSP) has already disclosed that loans from China only accounts for merely 0.65% of the country's total debt,” Huang said.
“Even if all the planned financing were implemented, the figure would only be around 4.5% by 2022, still much lower than that of other major foreign lenders,” the envoy said.
To date, the Philippines has signed only two loan agreements with China —the $62.1-million Chico River Pump Irrigation project and $211.2-million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam.
Despite the fact that global trade and cooperation has been battered severely amid the pandemic, the Chinese envoy noted that the total value of China's newly signed contracts of projects in the Philippines still scored an increase of 26.5% in the first half of the year, “which highlights the huge potential in bilateral cooperation.”
“Amid the pandemic, Chinese enterprises in the Philippines have actively committed to social responsibilities by donating well-needed medical supplies to local governments and hospitals,” Huang said.
“They have also proceeded steadily with a good coordination of epidemic prevention and work resumption, which contribute to the economic recovery and social stability in the Philippines,” he added.
Huang said China will continue to engage with the Philippines in joint COVID-19 prevention and control and exchange experience on resumption of work and production.
“We should step up efforts for the establishment of a ‘fast lane’ for urgently needed personnel exchanges and ‘green corridor’ for logistics, so as to ensure stable industrial and supply chains,” the envoy said.
“China stands ready to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and Build, Build, Build program and accelerate the implementation of cooperation projects to stimulate economic recovery and growth of the Philippines. We should also seize the new opportunities highlighted amid the pandemic, to strengthen such digital economic cooperation areas as 5G, big data, and artificial intelligence to foster new growth drivers for bilateral cooperation,” he added.—LDF, GMA News