By Mario B Casayuran
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros yesterday assailed the onerous provisions in the Chinese loan agreement on the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and warned Malacanang that entering such a deal is “grossly disadvantageous and treason to the country.”
“The Philippines is not pawning in ‘China’s pawnshop’ in the region. Hindi natin isasangla ang ating soberanya at gagawing kolateral ang ating likas yaman sa mga di-patas na proyekto at pautang ng Tsina,” she said. (We should not pawn our sovereignty and use as collateral our natural resources for our infrastructure projects to one-sided loan agreements.)
Hontiveros said that she agreed with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on the need for greater public scrutiny of loan agreements being entered into by the Duterte administration with China.
Carpio recently revealed that the Chico River loan agreement contains a provision that allows Chinese takeover of patrimonial assets – including gas fields in the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) – in case the country defaults in our payment on these loans.
He also said that arbitration mechanisms provided in the loan agreements will heavily favor the Chinese government to the detriment of the Philippines.
“Calling these onerous provisions alarming is an understatement. Despite Malacanang’s denials, it is clear as day that these loan agreements will have catastrophic results for our sovereignty, natural resources and economic security,” she said.
Hontiveros also assailed the confidentiality clause of the Chico River loan agreement and other deals with China, and said that such clauses are a “flagrant violation of the constitutional right of the people to information on matters of public concern.”
“In the interest of transparency and accountability, I call on the Duterte government to fully disclose the details of all loan agreements it entered into, particularly with the Chinese government. Kung talagang nakabubuti sa bansa ang mga nilalakad at inuutang na proyekto sa Tsina, walang kailangang itago ang Malakanyang sa taumbayan,” she said. (There is no need for Malacanang to hide these loan agreements being negotiated if they really benefit the Filipino people.)
Hontiveros made her statements despite assurances from other senators, particularly Senators Drilon and Lacson, that the current budget setup will ensure the payment of our loans. According to Drilon and Lacson, Presidential Decree 1177 which authorizes the automatic appropriation of public funds to pay off loan interests and principals in any loan is in place to ensure that the Philippines would be able to pay off its loan obligations with foreign countries. Om the other hand, Senators Ralph Recto, and Joel Villanueva, assailed the loan agreement for partiality to Chinese labor.