Like Malaysia, ‘PH should call off China-backed projects’
The Philippines should emulate Malaysia by canceling “suspicious” China-backed projects that may push the country to the brink of bankruptcy, opposition Senator Leila de Lima said on Friday.
In a statement from detention at Camp Crame, the senator urged the Duterte administration to take its cue from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who withdrew from three China-backed projects with a total amount of $22 billion to avoid falling into a debt trap.
“We need to take heed before it’s too late,” De Lima said.
“Entering into loan agreements, especially those that are not obtained through competitive procurement, can put our country not only in dire debt and cripple our economy, but also undermine our sovereignty and national security,” she added.
Other senators shared De Lima’s cautiousness about Chinese loans.
“That’s what we should look out for,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“And that’s why PPP (public-private partnerships) should be a better model than ODA (official development assistance). PPP will not affect the balance sheet of the national government [as there is] no need to borrow too much,” he said.
Senator JV Ejercito said he had similar misgivings.
“That is also my apprehension on China being friendly and offering assistance to finance and undertake big infrastructure projects. For sure it will have strings attached. And knowing China, it will come at a heavy price, too. Lutong Macau! [Filipino expression that means rigged],” he said in a text message to reporters.
‘Don’t blindly copy’
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, however, said Malaysia’s situation might not necessarily apply to the Philippines.
“No two countries are 100-percent similarly situated. Let us decide for ourselves what best to do given our own situation and our own analysis. We should not blindly copy what other countries are doing,” he said.
Mahathir said early this week that three China-backed projects—including a railway connecting Malaysia’s east coast to Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, and two gas pipelines—would be canceled until Malaysia could find a way to pay its debts.
In the Philippines, the Duterte administration is relying on Chinese loans to fund a big chunk of the P8.2-trillion “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program over the next six years.
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