Philippines won't stop infrastructure projects with Chinese involvement despite US blacklisting

04, Sep. 2020

Sangley Airport, a former U.S. naval base, is being utilized since February 2020 for general aviation operations. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Department of Transportation)
Sangley Airport, a former U.S. naval base, is being utilized since February 2020 for general aviation operations. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Department of Transportation)

MANILA, NNA – The Philippines will not prohibit sanctioned Chinese companies from participating in the country’s infrastructure projects despite United States blacklisting of Chinese businesses allegedly involved in reclamation work in the South China Sea.

Harry Roque, the spokesman for president Rodrigo Duterte, enunciated the position of the Southeast Asian country when making it clear that it would not cave in to pressure by a foreign power.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Roque reiterated that Duterte had declared on Monday that the US could blacklist Chinese companies in their own territories in America and "maybe in their military bases under their jurisdiction".

“But what the president said was clear. He will not follow the directives of the Americans because we are a free and independent nation and we need those investments from China,” Roque said.

Last week, the administration of president Donald Trump penalized 24 Chinese state-run companies for their roles in "militarizing" outposts with "destructive dredging" in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Among the blacklisted companies are dredging subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC), a transport and infrastructure conglomerate, which is set to build the $10 billion Sangley Point International Airport in Cavite, south of Metro Manila, with a local partner.

Roque said the country will move ahead with the Sangley airport project as well as other projects with Chinese contractors.

Despite territorial disputes with China, Duterte is bent on completing the gargantuan 'Build, Build, Build' project to expand and upgrade infrastructural facilities such as roads, bridges and the overhaul of the Sangley airport.

“So [the Sangley project] and all other projects, regardless of which Chinese contractor is involved, will continue because the national interest is to ensure the flagship projects under Build, Build, Build will be finished,” Roque said.

The country has earlier decided to press on with projects so that they would help stimulate the economy and provide jobs to Filipinos who have lost their livelihoods because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Philippine foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., said he would recommend that government agencies end contracts with Chinese companies involved in unlawful reclamation activities in contested areas in the South China Sea.

In his briefing on Thursday, Roque said Locsin has now agreed with the president’s stand on the issue, noting that cancelling contracts would result in the government being “sued in courts".

Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla said last week the provincial government would terminate the Sangley airport building agreements immediately if Duterte and the department of national defense deem the partnership with Chinese contractor CCCC a “national security risk”.

In a post on his official social media account this week, Remulla said there is a need to proceed with the Sangley project, and that he has faith in CCCC after talks with their officials.

“I believe in their sincere desire to invest and construct a world-class premiere gateway to our beloved country,” Remulla concluded.

Welcoming the decision of Manila to go ahead with Chinese collaboration in Philippine projects, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said all projects Beijing has in the country have complied with laws and regulations.

“I believe that any attempt to undermine the normal economic cooperation between China and the Philippines will never succeed,” he said in a radio interview whose transcript is posted on the Chinese embassy website.

The United States Department of Commerce has a blacklist, called the Entity List, that forbids US companies from doing business with sanctioned companies or exporting products to them unless they are given a special license to do so.

Apart from new entries of the 24 Chinese state-owned companies, including five CCCC dredging subsidiaries, the blacklist includes many other Chinese companies, notably telecom company Huawei.

CCCC has since stated that its five blacklisted subsidiaries, including the China Communications Construction Company Dredging Group, did not have any business in America and would not be impacted financially by Washington sanctions.