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Chinese-backed projects will push through – Palace

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will push through with Chinese-backed projects even if the United States has blacklisted 24 Chinese state-owned firms involved in the massive reclamation of Philippine-owned islets in the South China Sea.

These include the Sangley Point International Airport project, a joint venture of Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. and China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC), one of the blacklisted firms.

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CCCC’s subsidiary, China Harbour Engineering Co., is partnering on a $1.2-billion reclamation project with the firm of tycoon Dennis Uy, Duterte’s associate and biggest election campaign donor.

China Harbour will partner also with the Philippines’ richest family on a separate $1.86- billion reclamation venture.

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“The Sangley project will push through. The President declared last night that the Americans can enforce the blacklisting of Chinese companies on their territory and bases under their jurisdiction,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a press briefing on Tuesday.

“The President was clear in saying he will not follow the directive of the Americans, because we are a free and independent nation. We need investors from China,” he said.

“So Sangley and all other projects, regardless of who the Chinese contractor is, will continue. Our national interest is to ensure that the ‘Build, Build, Build’ flagship projects will be completed,” Roque said.

Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian welcomed Malacañang’s decision to continue the contracts with the Chinese firms blacklisted by the United States.

“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 envoy said.

He said the United States sanctions on Chinese companies “under the pretext of protecting the South China Sea, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and aims to drive a wedge between China and regional countries.”

China has been aggressive in its expansion in the South China Sea despite a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line claim and favored the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea.

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Opposition lawmaker Risa Hontiveros filed a Senate resolution on Tuesday to investigate possible collusion by Filipinos over China’s artificial islands.

“It is not hard to suspect dubious engagement by either party,” Hontiveros said.

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla is standing by joint venture partner CCCC even after the latter was placed in a United States sanctions list.

In a statement, Remulla rejected calls by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to terminate contracts with Chinese companies blacklisted by the United States.

“I have met with the CACC officials and I believe in their sincere desire to invest and construct a world-class premier gateway to our beloved country,” Remulla said, referring to China Airport Construction Corp., which is part of CCCC.

With a report from Reuters

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TAGS: Chinese-backed projects, Huang Xilian, maritime dispute, PH-China relations, Rodrigo Duterte, US sanctions on China
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