Duterte selling out sovereignty for Chinese funding – IBON

Research group IBON
said that the Duterte administration’s downplaying of the hit-and-run by a
Chinese vessel of a Philippine fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)
shows how it gives more importance to Chinese funding over Philippine
sovereignty.

On June 9, a Chinese
vessel rammed and sank the Filipino fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver and left the 22
fishermen on board adrift at sea. President Rodrigo Duterte’s first comment on
the issue over a week after it happened, on June 17, was to dismiss it as a simple
“maritime incident” being played up by “stupid politicians”.  The president echoed the Chinese foreign
ministry’s statement a few days earlier calling the boat sinking “an ordinary
maritime traffic accident” and warning against “irresponsibly politicizing” the
collision.

IBON explained that
the Duterte administration’s position is most likely influenced by how it is
courting billions in dollars in aid, debt and investments from China. The
government is reportedly seeking as much as US$14.3 billion in official development
assistance (ODA) from China to finance 29 ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure projects
costing US$16.8 billion.

China ODA has already increased
by 24,200% under the Duterte administration – from US$1.5 million in 2016 to
US$364.9 million in 2018, said the group. China ODA is seen as essential to fund
flagship infrastructure projects. Loan agreements with China have already
become controversial for having terms disadvantageous for the Philippines and compromising
its sovereignty. The most expensive infrastructure project to be funded by
China is the Philippine National Railway (PNR) South Long Haul Project worth
US$3.3 billion. China is also being targeted to fund the Mindanao Railway Project
Phase 1 worth US$677 million.

IBON also noted surging
foreign direct investments (FDI) from China. China FDI increased from US$0.4
million in 2016 to US$163.4 million in 2018. Moreover, the Duterte administration
also managed to get pledges from Chinese companies of around US$12.1 billion
during the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last April
2019. Prime Minister Xi Jinping also pledged US$148 million in grants to help
boost the Philippine economy during the forum.

The Duterte
administration is not asserting the country’s sovereignty or upholding the
rights of the Filipino fishermen for fear of jeopardizing the China aid and investments
it is so eager for, said IBON. It is desperate to stimulate the Philippine
economy amidst its sluggish performance. Growth of gross domestic product (GDP)
fell to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019 from 6.5% in the same period last
year.  

IBON also warned that
China has already been implicated in controversial deals gone bad where
governments were pressured to give up strategic assets like ports. China-funded
projects around the world have also been hounded by allegations of hundreds of millions
of dollars in corruption and overpricing.

IBON said that a truly
independent foreign policy includes asserting the country’s sovereignty and
upholding domestic economic development including the welfare of all Filipinos.
The Duterte administration should stop privileging China in Philippine
territory just because it is promising so much financing, the group said. ###

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