All the vital projects between the Philippines and China are off to a good start despite torrents of disinformation seeking to derail the joint development push of President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Just recently, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Duterte in Davao City to ensure the unimpeded takeoff of the projects ahead of the November state visit of Xi.
The arrival of Wang was significant as it came on the heels of his signing of the agreements between China and Japan which did not only bolster ties between the two Asian giant economies but also calmed political tension.
Wang’s visit to the Philippines focused on establishing the framework on the joint oil and natural gas exploration of the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.
Former Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano prepared the final touches on the draft to be discussed. “I can say it’s looking good from the legal, moral point of view of protecting territorial rights and economic rights,” Cayetano said of the draft.
The framework for joint oil and gas exploration holds the key to the Philippines achieving “energy freedom.”
Filipinos must ensure that the opportunity to secure their energy future is not disrupted by interest groups or foreign governments.
The US Geological Survey had estimated the disputed Spratly Islands territory may contain between 0.8 and 5.4 billion barrels of oil and between 7.6 and 55.1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas.
The energy resources are said to be located mainly in the Reed Bank northeast end of the Spratlys which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Overall, the South China Sea is estimated to contain approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 tcf of natural gas — much larger than Malampaya.
The Philippine Constitution is open to joint efforts with foreign entities, Cayetano said. His successor at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Secretary Teddy “Boy” Locsin, is expected to finalize the framework with Wang Yi.
Even acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio last August explained that Chinese companies can participate in exploitation even in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones as technical and financial “contractors” of the Philippine government or companies.
Big-ticket projects had been slated for signing in the November state visit of President Xi Jinping.
The reports have glossed over these which leads us to conclude that all major creases in the agreements for such humongous projects as the “Manila-to-Matnog” P175-billion 683-km train project had been ironed out and ripe for signing.
At least nine other agreements have been fine-tuned and are to be signed.
The loan agreements scheduled for signing this November are the: 1) New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project costing P12.2 billion; 2) the Safe Philippines Project Phase I (P20.3 billion); and the Subic-Clark Railway Project (P57.1 billion).
More had been scheduled for mid-2019 such as the construction of five bridges across the Pasig-Marikina River, Manggahan Floodway (P13.6 billion) and Ambal-Simuay River and the Rio Grande de Mindanao River Flood Control Projects (P39.1 billion).
Prior projects already signed are the Chico River Irrigation Dam project in the Cordilleras and the two donated bridges across the Pasig crossing Makati to Mandaluyong and crossing congested Binondo to Intramuros.
Both bridge projects had their share of obstructionist chatter by the usual “yellow” crowds and pundits. All the projects are assured by the Department of Finance and NEDA to be “debt trap” proofed by the closest scrutiny and the low ODA interest terms of 2 percent.
Allegations of China’s debt-trap diplomacy are debunked by reality: Myanmar sought new projects with China such as a railroad from Muse to Mandalay.
Pakistan’s new PM Imran Khan sought assistance from China to shift focus of BRI projects to agriculture and jobs creation, with China promising further assistance.
China’s loans constituted only 6.3 percent of Pakistan’s total debt. The real “debt trap” fiends are IMF and Western commercial banks, as is the case in the Philippines.
Chandra Musaffar wrote in Asia Times: “Pakistan’s largest creditors are not China but Western countries… lenders led by the IMF … its foreign debt is expected to surpass $95 billion… and debt servicing is projected to reach $31 billion by 2022-2023.’”
For Africa too, quoting the Executive Intelligence Review study of Askary and Ross, the “majority of African debt is not held by China but by Western countries and such Western-backed institutions as the IMF and World Bank.”
China had defined its vision of the “Community of Common Destiny” and a destiny that’s a “Win-Win” for all nations linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of infrastructure, communication and trade.
Countries availing of the BRI links must focus on the essential economic needs and use China’s offer of low-cost financial assistance and construction prowess to spur development — exactly what the Duterte administration is doing against the odds.