Rody wants ODA without counterpart funds
(The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2016 - 11:02pm

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – If President Duterte can have his way, he prefers aid or official development assistance (ODA) that will not require a counterpart from the government.

“I really cannot understand why there is a need to put up a counterpart when you are supposed to help the poor,” Duterte said during the launch of the Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda (CRDA) program of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Cotabato City yesterday.

The President was able to clinch several billion dollars worth of ODA from his state visits to China and Japan. 

It has been noted that the government’s absorptive capacity has been put to question, as several ODA projects in the past had not been implemented for lack of counterpart funds. 

Duterte shrugged off suggestions for a comprehensive inventory of past and existing ODA projects. 

He said that as much as possible, the matter on the counterpart fund should be rationalized.

He said that as much as possible, he would really work so the government would provide the counterpart fund.

“If we have the money, I will spend all the money of the government, I will be the one to put up the counterpart fund,” he said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told The STAR that there’s money allocated for ODA counterpart funds.

Rody to US: Withdraw aid

Duterte told the US anew yesterday that it could withdraw all the aid it intended for the Philippines, saying the country can survive now that he has reached out to China, Japan and Russia.

“You can have your aid, we can survive. Maghanap na lang kayo ng bayan na makakasikmura ng insulto niyo, kaming mga Pilipino hindi naman kami patay-gutom (Go look for other countries who can stomach your insults, we Filipinos are not as poor as you think),” the President said.

He has repeatedly expressed his great displeasure at the US for criticizing his anti-drug campaign over alleged human rights abuses.

Duterte said he was appalled with how the US has belittled and insulted the Filipinos.

“I will just want to repeat this. You are criticizing me in my drug campaign. I don’t like to kill people but you picture me as if I enjoy killing my countrymen,” he said, adding he has been working hard to attain peace – from the Muslims to the communist group – so the Philippines can achieve stability.

Duterte issued the statement after he got some P24 billion worth of investments and concessionary loans from his state visit to China and $1.9-billion in fresh investments from Japan.

“Wag na tayong umasa sa tulong mula sa Amerika (Let’s not depend on the aid from the US),” he said.

Duterte vowed to improve the situation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other areas affected by armed conflict in the southern region.

“I want the incidence of hunger stopped,” he said, adding he has ordered Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to prioritize Mindanao.

Procurement process

When Chinese companies start entering into projects in the Philippines next year, the government will make sure that it would go through the normal government procurement process, a Palace official said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified on Friday that the memorandums of understanding (MOU) signed during President Duterte’s visit to China did not necessarily translate to a done deal.

“Those are not hard contracts, those are simply invitations. An understanding that they can submit feasibility studies and these are also open to other companies. There are no hard and fast rules that say ‘yes’ we have to accept this particular company,” Abella said, referring to China Road and Bridge Corp. (CRBC).

The World Bank blacklisted CRBC until January next year due to alleged bid rigging.

Another Chinese company, CCCC Dredging, reportedly bagged the deal to create 208 hectares of reclaimed land in Davao City.

The state-owned firm is said to be behind China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Abella said the projects would go through the government’s normal procurement processes and the biddings would be open to all interested companies.

He gave assurance that everybody would benefit and that the bidding would be fair and conducted with regularity.

Duterte has said that about $16 billion worth of investments and credit facilities are due for the Philippines during his term, although it would total $24 billion if the private-to-private deals are included.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said earlier the MOUs constitute about $4 billion.

Promises

Duterte brought home promises from his trip to China last week and not consummated deals worth $24 billion as his spokesmen claimed, an opposition congressman said yesterday.

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin made the statement in the wake of the clarification issued by Palace officials that many of the agreements signed in Beijing were just MOUs.

The officials were forced to make the clarification after questions were raised about the integrity of the Chinese companies involved in the so-called projects, some of which were to be undertaken together with state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

“If the MOUs signed by the President are non-binding, then why announce them as if they were done deals? How much investments did the nation really get out of that China trip?” he asked.

Villarin said despite pronouncements that projects were covered only by MOUs, “this still begs the question: why ink an agreement that entails the services of tainted companies?”

“We challenge President Duterte to look more closely at the bag of goodies he brought home from China. China Harbour Engineering and CCCC Dredging Co., both identified in the itemized list provided by Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez, are involved in anomalies in projects they undertook elsewhere,” he said.

“China Harbour Engineering, which committed to undertake the Subic-Clark railway, Sangley Point and Davao Port development and Manila harbor reclamation, was banned by the World Bank for tender rigging and fraud related to a lucrative $2-billion contract for the construction of a highway in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The lawmaker said the World Bank has linked CCCC Dredging Co. to irregularities in the WB-funded Philippine National Road Improvement and Management Project 2009, as reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

“It is worth taking a look at the proposed undertakings with these companies, even if these would just involve feasibility studies – the fruit of a poisoned tree is still poisoned,” Villarin stressed.

“What safeguards can we put in place to ensure these companies will not turn over skewed studies favoring Chinese contractors which we will eventually loan out?” he asked.

He also wondered if these risks were worth downplaying the country’s claim in the West Philippine Sea.

“In the fewest words possible, this deals stink. This does not sound like a partnership, much less an independent foreign policy. It is the Chinese government baiting us into million-dollar deals that they will finance through loans while they continue to exploit our natural resources, including Panatag Shoal and beyond,” he said.

He urged the President to review these deals, junk shady Chinese contractors and re-channel his attention to protecting our territorial integrity. – With Giovanni Nilles, Jess Diaz, Evelyn Macairan

 

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