China envoy says projects in PH ‘lawful and beyond reproach’
MANILA, Philippines — The participation of Chinese firms in projects in the Philippines is “legitimate, lawful and beyond reproach,” Beijing’s top diplomat in Manila said Tuesday.
China-led projects in the Philippines will all push through as planned, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said even after the US announced sanctions against several Chinese firms involved in Beijing’s island-building in the South China Sea.
Similarly, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. recently said he would “strongly” recommend the termination of contracts between the Philippine government and Chinese companies involved in reclamation activities in the disputed waters.
“The pragmatic cooperation between China and the Philippines has always been based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win results, and all projects are all conducted in compliance with the existing laws and regulations,” the Chinese diplomat said in a radio interview, a transcript of which was sent to reporters.
Huang made the statement after accusing the US government of “grossly” interfering in China’s internal affairs and driving “a wedge between China and regional countries.”
“I believe that any attempt to undermine the normal economic cooperation between China and the Philippines will never succeed,” he said.
The Chinese ambassador also welcomed the pronouncement of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who said that President Rodrigo Duterte would not follow the lead of the US in ending contracts with Chinese firms involved in Beijing’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
Among the firms associated with reclamation activities in the South China Sea include China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. which is a joint venture with Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp., which bagged the initial phase of the Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) project in Cavite.
But Roque said the Sangley project, along with other projects involving Chinese firms, would push through.
The Chinese envoy commended Duterte’s “independent foreign policy course that puts the national interest at the core.”
“We believe that the pursuit of an independent foreign policy is in line with the fundamental interests of the Philippines and its people,” Huang went on.
He added that Chinese companies had made “important contributions” in achieving “fruitful results” in China’s Belt and Road initiative and the Philippine government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
China has been pushing for its expansive claims in the South China Sea, refusing to recognize the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which invalidated its ambitious nine-dash line feature that makes it appear it owns the entire body of water.
Duterte, meanwhile, has been criticized for setting aside the landmark ruling against Beijing’s claim in exchange for Chinese economic perks to help fund his administration’s infrastructure projects despite its continued military activities within the Philippine territory.
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