Government told to stop borrowing from China

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Think tank Infrawatch PH has asked the government to consider cancelling P159 billion worth of Chinese projects, mostly in transport, in light of Beijing’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea that endangers Filipino lives.

In a statement, Infrawatch PH convenor Terry Ridon said the government would find it challenging to fight for Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea if it continues to obtain loans from China to fund infrastructure buildup.

As such, Ridon said policymakers should reevaluate the status of China-funded projects that may be used by Beijing as leverage to hostage Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Infrawatch PH said that there are five projects in Luzon and Mindanao bankrolled by Chinese loans. These projects include the P80.53 billion Davao City Expressway Project; P15.29 billion priority bridges in Metro Manila; and the P23.04 billion Samal Island-Davao Island Connector.

Further, the list covers the P39.22 billion flood controls in Mindanao and the P1.17 billion flood management in Metro Manila. Infrawatch PH also listed the Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Long Haul as a project backed by China.

However, the Department of Finance in September withdrew the loan application for the P175.3 billion PNR South Long Haul, delaying efforts to revive the Bicol Express.

Last year, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) junked the loan application for the P20 billion Safe Philippines Project Phase 1.

Ridon said had the DILG pushed through with the project, China would be given permission to install thousands of security cameras around Metro Manila and Davao City.

“Our infrastructure ambitions must not be held hostage to the whims of a single foreign power. Many international funding options are available that respect our sovereignty and offer us more favorable terms,” Ridon said.

For PNR South Long Haul, the government plans to turn to its traditional sources like the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency for financing. The situation is similar for the P83 billion Mindanao Railway Phase 1 and the P50 billion Subic-Clark Railway that were both pulled out from China as well.

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