By Genalyn Kabiling
BEIJING — The Philippine government is prepared to terminate China-funded railway projects “at any point” in case the contract is tainted by corruption, according to the country’s transportation chief.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has bared that ensuring a corruption-free project is one of the four “working platforms” proposed to Chinese companies involved in three railway projects.
The three other conditions are the hiring of Filipino workers, payment of taxes, and partial operability for the Bicol railway project, the Subic-Clark railway project, and the Mindanao railway project. The Chinese firms have agreed with these platforms, Tugade said.
“Platform four is ‘yung dealing ninyo sa akin pati sa mga tao ko, walang corruption [Platform four is there should be no corruption in your dealings with me or my people],” Tugade said in an interview with reporters last Saturday in Beijing.
“Corruption is defined as facilitation, commission, and expensive gift. You break that, I will terminate the contract at any point,” he said.
Apart from the anti-corruption stance, Tugade said the Chinese firms have committed to hire Filipino workers especially in the construction of railway projects.
In the Bicol railway project, he said the proponent intends to train an initial 1,000 Filipino workers in preparation for the construction.
The companies could bring their own engineers and other technical people for the specialized jobs needed in the railway plans, he said.
Tugade said he has also convinced the Chinese railway entities to “accept the platform of partial operability.” The government hopes the three railway projects would be partially operating by third or fourth quarter of 2021, he said.
The Chinese railway firms have been asked to pay the appropriate taxes to the Philippine government, according to Tugade.
“I know you pay tax but at least let’s put it in written form of your agreement and willingness to pay the appropriate allowable and legal taxes. Okay sila [They were okay with it],” he said.
“Inulit ko yan doon sa meeting nila kay Presidente kahapon at inendorso naman ng Pangulo at ni-reiterate naman na ready sila sa usapan natin [I reiterated that in their meeting with the President last Friday and the President endorsed them. They reiterated that they are ready with our discussion],” he said.
The two massive railway projects, the 71-kilometer Subic-Clark railway and 102-kilometer Mindanao railway project, will reportedly be financed by Chinese loans.
The government recently tapped China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co. Ltd. Consortium for the management consultancy of the 639-kilometer Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Long-Haul Project. The project aims to link Manila to the Bicol region in Southern Luzon.
On the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the President met with the Chinese business community and promised to ensure a comfortable and corruption-free business climate in the country.
He urged the businessmen to report any complaint of corruption and inefficiency in their dealings with the government.
“I guarantee you that there will be no hassles, no asking for money, no nothing. And if you think that the permit or the concession privilege about to be given is unduly delayed, please let me know,” said President Duterte, who earlier welcomed the $12-billion worth of trade and investment deals sealed between Filipino and Chinese firms during his Beijing trip.