Government to pursue China-funded irrigation project

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government is inclined to pursue the China-funded Chico River Pump Irrigation project unless the Supreme Court orders a stop to the loan agreement.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo issued the statement after Makabayan lawmakers announced plans to question the constitutionality of the irrigation project before the Supreme Court.

"The Palace always welcomes any move to question its action if they feel it's not within the law,” he said during a Palace press briefing.

"If there is no order from the SC stopping it, then it's a go,” he said about the irrigation project.

Lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc reportedly plan to ask the Supreme Court to halt the Chico River Pump Irrigation project amid questions about its constitutionality. They argued that the loan agreement with China should be rescinded due to alleged dangerous provisions that could lead to the sellout of national sovereignty.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that China could seize the country’s “patrimonial assets and assets dedicated to commercial use” if the Philippines is unable to pay off the loan. Such assets supposedly included the oil and gas resources in the Reed Bank or Recto Bank located in the West Philippine Sea.

The government has tried to dispel concerns the country might lose some assets over the Chico River project, assuring the country would not reneged on the loan payment.

On the appeal of some groups to suspect other China-funded projects, Panelo said the President was ready to listen to any concern.

"The President will consider all the suggestions, and then decide eventually whether he will respond favorably or not. The President is always open to that. He listens," he added.