By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines will not fall into a debt trap even after the government took Chinese loans to bankroll some infrastructure projects, Beijing’s top diplomat in Manila said Tuesday.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has relayed China’s commitment to ensure that these Beijing-funded projects would not adversely affect the Philippines’ socio-economic growth.
Zhao assured the Philippines that China is “a good neighbor, good partner and a good friend” during the groundbreaking ceremony of two bridges donated by China to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
“China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap. Because under the wise leadership of President Duterte and economic management team headed by Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez, they are smart enough not to allow the Philippines to fall into the so-called debt trap,” Zhao said during the ceremony in Manila.
“China will honor this commitment to make sure those projects will benefit the Filipino people, will not have any negative impact on the socio economic development of the Philippines,” he said.
Zhao also made clear that the two bridges, namely the Binondo-Intramuros bridge and Estrella-Pantaleon bridge, would be funded by a Chinese grant.
“China’s grant does not have any strings attached to them,” he said, adding the bridges crossing Pasig River would be built for free.
The Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, spanning 734 meters, will be equipped with a four lane carriageway and a three meter sidewalk along both sides. The Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge will connect Estrella Street at Makati City and Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong City. It will have a road length of 506.46 meters.
The Department of Public Works and Highways will be partner with two Chinese firms in the design, construction, and civil works of the planned bridges.
In an interview with reporters prior to the start of the groundbreaking ceremony, Zhao said that while China has offered soft loans to finance some infrastructure projects in the Philippines, Beijing will not end up being owners of the facilities.
“There is no mention or no avenue for ownership, your government will own all those projects. So there will be no question of putting yourself in debt,” he added.
Zhao highlighted that the relationship between the Philippines and China has already entered a new era.
“In this new era, China is a good neighbor, good partner and a good friend. We will do our utmost to prove that President’s independent foreign policy, particularly friendly and cooperative policy towards China, will produce more tangible benefits for the people of the Filipinos,” he said.