Locsin: Scrap contracts with barred China firms

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Locsin: Scrap contracts with barred China firms
Image from Facebook shows an artist’s rendition of the proposed Sangley Point International Airport. China Communications Construction Co., among the Chinese firms blacklisted by the US, has been awarded the initial phase of the airport project, which is seen to help decongest NAIA.

Palace: Sangley deal still on

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday he would “strongly recommend” the termination of government contracts with Chinese firms found involved in reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“If I find that any of those companies are doing business with us, then I would strongly recommend we terminate that relationship with that company. If they were in any way involved in the reclamation, then it becomes consistent on our part to terminate any contract with them,” Locsin said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Locsin made the statement after the US government blacklisted 24 state-owned firms for taking part in building artificial islands in South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

“Of course, since the contract was already entered into, they could sue us back. But that’s a good point because I am very careful about validating anything China does by inaction,” he said.

The DFA chief said he would ask Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and acting National Economic and Development Authority director general Karl Chua whether any of the Chinese companies sanctioned by the US have ongoing projects in the Philippines, adding he would “study the nature of those sanctions.”

The US Commerce Department said the companies, including subsidiaries of construction giant China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC), were placed on its “Entity List,” which allows it to block exports of US goods and materials to them.

In February, the provincial government of Cavite awarded the initial phase of the Sangley Point International Airport to the consortium of state-run CCCC and Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. The project, however, has yet to take off.

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel yesterday they are willing to cut ties with the Chinese company involved in the Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) project should the national government say so.

“It’s a national security issue. If the President says, if the Department of National Defense says it’s a security risk entering into an agreement with them then we would cease all, we will terminate the agreements immediately,” Remulla said.

He said the national government is welcome to “chime in on it and have their own risk assessment of what is going on.”

“I want to build an airport. We found a partner. It seems that they are involved in the South China Sea issue, but I will leave it up to the Department of National Defense, leave it to the Office of the President to guide us on how to pursue this,” he said.

The provincial government of Cavite awarded last February to the team of MacroAsia Corp. and CCCC the $4-billion first phase of the SPIA project.

Malacañang said yesterday it saw no need to scrap the project.

The SPIA is one of the highly anticipated airport projects in the country, as it is seen to help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila once developed.

However, the project has yet to advance given the challenges facing MacroAsia and CCCC brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The joint venture between CCCC and MacroAsia, it’s about to be completed, it’s not perfected yet. Their boards have to approve it and it should be done in, maybe in a month it should be perfected,” Remulla said.

MacroAsia-CCCC consortium last June was given a fresh three-month extension or until Sept. 9 for the submission of their post qualification requirements for the SPIA project.

The MacroAsia-CCCC consortium failed to meet its deadline for the second time last June 11.

The consortium was given last April a two-month extension or until June 11 within which to submit their post qualification documents, but MacroAsia had said it would need more time to submit the requirements.

MacroAsia officials have yet to comment on the new issue surrounding its Chinese partner.

Senators back Locsin

Senators, meanwhile, have voiced support for Locsin’s position. “It’s long in coming by way of a statement coming as it does from our top foreign policy implementor,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said yesterday.

“China’s recent display of arrogance in the WPS by accusing us of infringing on China’s sovereignty and security by sending our military aircraft into air space adjacent to Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, even urging the Philippine side to immediately stop illegal provocations tops it all,” Lacson said in a text message.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said he supports Locsin’s stance not just because of the US government’s decision to blacklist and impose sanctions on Chinese firms involved in Beijing’s island-building activities in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

“As long as the decision of the DFA is in line with the President’s independent foreign policy pivot, I truly support the same. It is about time we truly assert our sovereign claims in the West Philippine Sea even through diplomatic means,” Tolentino said in a text message.

“The proposal of the DFA should be grounded not because of the recent US pronouncement but because it is in accord with our highest national interests,” he said.

The DFA should also note that the latest US pronouncement does not yet include a possible listing under the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, “which has more devastating financial effects,” he said. “We should thank our ally the United States for supporting us.”

He also suggested the DFA closely monitor the ongoing standoff between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea, an issue that may again put to test  the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.- Richmond Mercurio, Paolo Romero

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