Chinese firms tapped for PH infra projects have ‘shady track records’ — lawmaker

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 October) — At least three Chinese companies that have bagged big-ticket infrastructure projects in the country during President Duterte’s recent state visit to China have “shady track records” in dealing with the Philippines, a party-list lawmaker said Wednesday.

In a statement, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque mentioned the China Road and Bridge Corp. (CRBC) that built the Catanduanes Circumferential Road, which “I which I questioned on behalf of my client, former Congressman Abaya.

“This is the famous case of Abaya v. Executive Secretary, which was used by GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) in justifying the NBN-ZTE deal. This was the decision that the Supreme Court ruled that foreign-funded projects in the form of treaties did not comply with public bidding,” he recalled.

“It took me a long time but this ruling in Abaya has finally been reversed in the ruling involving Sinomach or North Rail. The Court finally correctly ruled that projects pursuant to treaties did not comply with government procurement law. And that the North Rail contract, because it is not a treaty, it is not between states and it is not governed by international law, should have complied with international law,” he added.

CRBC signed a contract with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority to develop the Bonifacio Global City-Ninoy Aquino International Airport segment of the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit-Edsa project.

Since 2009, the World Bank has banned CRBC from all its projects for alleged irregularities in the bidding for for the first phase of the Philippine National Roads Improvement and Management Program (NRIMP 1).

Roque also mentioned China CAMC Engineering, a subsidiary of Sinomach which he sued in invalidating the North Rail contract.

Third on the lawmaker’s list is CCCC Dredging Company, the largest dredging company in the world and the same firm which reportedly built the artificial islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with Mega Harbour Port for the Cebu International and Bulk Terminal project.

“So we need to be on guard. We need foreign investments, but we need to make sure, too, that our laws, particularly our procurement law, are respected to the letter,” Roque, who joined Duterte’s state visit to China, said.

“To reiterate, I support the President’s position on his independent foreign policy, and I believe this was the reason why I was invited to form part of the delegation. But that I would like to point out that, by pursuing an independent foreign policy, my interpretation is that we will also be independent from a country like China,” he said.

The lawmaker further noted that the talks between the President and the Chinese president on the West Philippine Sea went behind closed doors.

“So we don’t really know what happened to the one-on-one meeting, although I understand it lasted for almost two hours. But with the Chinese premier, the President brought it up. He said that ‘we have our disagreement over the West Philippine Sea, I come here not to quarrel about it but I’m saying that we need to resolve this soon’,” he said.

Roque said that based on information he got from other members of the delegation, whatever commitment Duterte obtained from China was not reduced into writing and not formally announced over disagreement on the use of words.

“We do not want the word ‘allow’ and ‘permit’ to be used by China because the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal is that Filipinos and Chinese and Vietnamese can look forward to the Scarborough Shoal as traditional fishing grounds. And I understand that is what has kept them from reducing into writing this agreement that would resume the fishing of our fishermen in Scarborough Shoal,” he explained.

“My personal observation of the President’s trip is that the entire trip is really to facilitate resumption of fishing in Scarborough. Note that the two other decisions of the Arbitral Tribunal that the claim to historic waters is contrary to international law and that the artificial islands are within the Exclusive Economic Zone are matters really that need not be agreed upon.

“What the Tribunal said is absolutely binding on both the Philippines and China. On the artificial islands, the Tribunal was very clear, since these artificial islands are built within our EEZ, only the Philippines can build these islands. The translation there is that we own the artificial islands.

“But when China will actually cease to use these artificial islands as military bases, of course, is something that will have to be agreed upon. But make no doubts about this, we do not need to negotiate on the status of these islands,” he said. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)