By Chino S. Leyco
The Department of Finance (DOF) said yesterday that there was no discussion on the possible joint oil exploration between the Philippines and China during Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III’s recent visit to Beijing.
According to the Finance department, the Duterte administration’s ranking officials, led by Dominguez, only discussed the big-ticket infrastructure and development projects to be rolled out by the Philippines in cooperation with China.
The department said “not once did the issue on the West Philippine Sea crop up during the regular meetings on the negotiations and processing of new loans with China, and even in the bilateral, high-level meetings between DOF officials and their Chinese counterparts.”
“The topic of joint (oil) exploration was never raised in our discussions with our counterparts particularly during loan negotiations and processing of new loans, even during the bilateral meetings/ high-level meetings with this office,” the DOF said in a statement.
The DOF issued the statement to deny online reports about a Chinese embassy official supposedly using China’s offers of loans and grants to force the Philippines to agree to a joint exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea.
“This is a grossly malicious claim without any basis,” the DOF said. “There is no link whatsoever between the Chinese loans and grants and the proposed joint oil exploration deal between the two countries.”
The DOF said that technical discussions on the loan agreements to be signed between the two countries are ongoing, with delays encountered “mostly due to our (the Philippine government’s) internal processes.”
“In fact, the proposed infrastructure projects we are undertaking with the cooperation of China all go through a very stringent process of approvals to ensure that they comply with the Government Procurement Act and other applicable laws,” the DOF said.
To date, the Philippines has signed four grant agreements totaling RMB 1.250 billion, or roughly $198.77 million, to finance projects and feasibility studies for various infrastructure projects.
Under the RMB 500 million grant signed in April, about RMB 110.33 million has been allotted for the project feasibility studies of the Davao City Expressway Project and Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge Project to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Moreover, during the High-Level Meetings between the Philippines and China held in Beijing in August, an indicative list of 12 infrastructure projects proposed for feasibility study assistance was submitted to the Chinese Government for its consideration.