Chinese firm in Sangley airport plan had tainted record in World Bank
MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese infrastructure giant in the consortium poised to bag the Sangley airport project has a spotty record that could raise questions about the propriety of allowing its participation in the major infrastructure plan.
The consortium of China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) and tycoon Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. was the lone bidder for the Cavite government’s plan to build the P500 billion Sangley Point International Airport.
The World Bank had banned the Chinese state-owned CCCC and its subsidiaries from 2011 to 2017 due to fraudulent practices, according to several reports.
One of its projects, Catanduanes Circumferential Road, had been brought into the spotlight because of an alleged fraudulent bidding process.
A CCCC subsidiary, CCCC Dredging, also faced scrutiny in the past for its alleged role in land reclamation by China in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
A CCCC Dredging ship had been reported seen and photographed at one of the artificial islands being built by China in 2015.
The CCCC is one of the world’s largest companies, with a portfolio of 700 projects in more than 100 countries outside China. It has a value of more than $100 billion, Bloomberg reported in 2018. It is said to be the largest contractor in China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, according to the think tank RWR Advisory Group in Washington.
Other controversies linked to CCCC cited in the Bloomberg report were: Malaysia’s suspension of two rail projects due to corruption suspicions, Canada’s banning of the firm from acquiring a construction company due to national security concerns, allegations of mistreatment of railway workers in Kenya and corruption in Bangladesh.
Inquirer.net tried calling the listed phone number of MacroAsia Corp., but was told there was no one immediately available to discuss about joint ventures.
Some active and retired Philippine security officials have raised alarm over the potential involvement of a Chinese state-owned company in the Sangley airport project.
“On the basis of the same security and defense issues that we earlier raised resulting [in] the aborted purchase of the Hanjin Subic shipyard by a Chinese company, this again is highly objectionable and even worse!” retired Navy chief Alexander Pama wrote on a Facebook post on Thursday.
A former US base until the early 1970s, Sangley Point currently houses Philippine air and naval bases. Its strategic location near Manila Bay had also made it a prime naval facility even during the time of Spanish colonization.
“With this, they (Navy and Air Force) will be co-located with something that could bring clear and present danger to them (if they are not evicted and/or relocated) and consequently to our nation’s capital. Won’t we really ever learn? Is it too late to rectify this?” Pama said.
A ranking security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the possible Chinese-backed development at Sangley Point should be viewed through national security lenses: “Anything that Chinese pays attention to should be subject for investigation on where that Chinese company is connected with. The security sector must be part of the decision makers.”
To allay security fears over the involvement of a Chinese state firm in the airport project, the provincial government of Cavite had suggested the Philippine Air Force to locate its operations at the proposed international airport.
“That will ensure we have safeguards in place to assert our sovereignty over the development,” Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla was quoted as saying in an Inquirer report on Thursday.
The planned airport is seen as a solution to congestion at the country’s premiere gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Being a local government PPP project, the planned Sangley airport need not go through the normal route of projects of that scale. It would not need review by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board, which is chaired by the President.
Edited by TSB
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