Avoid China ‘debt trap’, Recto urges gov’t

Published September 15, 2020, 3:45 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Ralph Recto has called on the executive department to refrain from incurring more debts from China due to its interest in the West Philippine Sea.

Senate Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a interview with CNN Philippines on Tuesday, Recto warned that the country might fall into a “debt trap” should it continue to avail of loans from China while it attempts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its recessionary impacts.

“I think that we should not be incurring more debts to China. In next year’s budget, we will be collecting roughly P2.9 trillion, but we will be borrowing P3 trillion. And maybe in the next two or three years. Having said that, I don’t think we should be borrowing more from China, considering everything that’s happening in the West Philippines Sea,” the Senate President Pro Tempore said.

While maintaining he is not against China, Recto lamented their island-building and militarization activities in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that have been “creating instability in the region”.

“We should not be borrowing bilaterally from China. China already has a track record on lending out money to many countries and we’ve seen what happened to many countries, we would fall into a debt trap as well,” he raised.

The lawmaker filed last September 7 Senate Resolution No. 512, which urges the executive department to refrain “from increasing the country’s debt exposure to China, with the end view of promoting transparency, safeguarding debt sustainability, and preserving and protecting national interest”.

He earlier filed a separate resolution asking the government to prohibit Chinese companies complicit in China’s incursions from doing business in the Philippines.

“Potentially we may lose our EEZ. Many people do not realize but our EEZ is just a big, if not a little bigger, that the entire country. Our land mass is about 30 million hectares, our EEZ is little more than 30 million hectares in the West Philippines Sea. There’s a lot of mineral resources there, so I think we should protect this for future generation’s response,” Recto pointed out.

In the television interview, Recto admitted doubting the “independent foreign policy” championed by the Duterte administration.

“Not everyone in government is amenable, not everyone in government is saying that this is an independent foreign policy. It is a pivot to China, what independent policy are we talking about?” he said.

“Well, do you?” he replied when asked if he believes in the said policy. “I don’t, like I said, it’s a pivot to China.”

“Why should we reward contractors who develop, who put up these [islands] and reclaim part of the West Philippine Sea? We will allow them now to what, reclaim Manila Bay?”

Recto said the Senate is scheduled to tackle on Friday his resolutions and hopes to be educated on the executive department’s and the experts’ positions on the issue.

He also said that he hopes to gather the vote of majority of his colleagues for his resolution to be passed by the Senate and eventually convince the executive department on this concern.