Zubiri: No more Chinese firms in next big-ticket projects | Inquirer News

Zubiri: No more Chinese firms in next big-ticket projects

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:34 AM August 12, 2023

Zubiri: No more Chinese firms in next big-ticket projects

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri—Senate PRIB

The government would no longer tap Chinese government-owned companies in the construction of railways and other big-ticket infrastructure projects in the wake of China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea, according to Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, citing the assurance given by Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista during their meeting at the Senate on Tuesday.

Zubiri and Bautista met three days after a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel on Aug. 5 fired water cannons at a boat Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship and at a wooden boat operated by the Philippine Navy while on a resupply mission to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. The PCG is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

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“We had a one-on-one meeting. I told him, ‘Secretary, you have seen what they have done to our coast guard. If that’s the case, we should no longer give [infrastructure] projects to state-owned Chinese companies here in the Philippines,’” Zubiri said in a radio interview on Thursday night.

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“I was elated because Secretary Bautista said they [would] no longer get Chinese state-owned companies in the construction of [railways], airports and other big-ticket items,” he added.

The Inquirer on Friday night tried to reach Bautista to confirm Zubiri’s statements but he had yet to reply at press time.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman earlier said the government would be spending P1.418 trillion on infrastructure projects, or about a fourth of the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024.

Malacañang also increased the DOTr’s allotment for next year to P214.3 billion, more than double of the department’s approved budget of P105.98 billion this year.

Canceled projects

In July 2022, the Chinese loans for three multibillion-peso railway projects under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte were scrapped after the Chinese government failed to act on the funding requests by the government.

Negotiations for the P142-billion Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Long-Haul Project (or PNR Bicol Express), P83-billion Tagum-Davao-Digos segment of the Mindanao Railway Project, and P51-billion Subic-Clark Railway Project began in 2018 and had been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority to receive official development assistance loans from China.

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Manila’s loan applications with state-owned China Eximbank, however, were deemed withdrawn after former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III “canceled the application instead of keeping it in suspended animation” due to the bank’s inaction.

Zubiri, who earlier called on the public to stop buying Chinese-made products, reiterated that the Philippines should follow Vietnam’s lead in opposing China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea by limiting their trade relations. Vietnam is among the countries in Southeast Asia which have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

‘Friendly’ states

“Why should we let the taxes of the Filipino people be used to fund these Chinese state-owned companies? … (China) has done nothing but to bully our people and fishermen,” Zubiri said.

“The income of these companies will be used by China to fund their navy and coast guard to harass. That’s not right,” he pointed out.

Instead, Zubiri said the Philippines should improve its economic ties with other “friendly” countries, like Japan and South Korea.

He said the Department of Public Works and Highways should also impose a similar moratorium on Chinese contractors involved in the construction of roads, bridges and other public infrastructure projects.

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“Let’s get back at them (the Chinese government). We should blacklist their companies,” Zubiri added. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: DoTr, Juan Miguel Zubiri, West Philippine Sea

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