Think tanks, groups warn vs China’s global infrastructure build-up

Think thanks and anti-corruption advocates have warned of China’s massive global infrastructure projects called the “Belt Road Initiative” (BRI) as they raised transparency issues and the country’s geopolitical interest.

In the recent virtual town hall discussion of Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute on “Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and Corrosive Capital: Mitigating Corruption Risks in the Philippines”, Regional Director of international think tank, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Jon Morrell said, “A democratic government simply cannot borrow money from secret sources for secret purposes on secret terms and be considered a democratic government.”

Alluding to China loans, Morrel explained, “There are ironclad non-disclosure clauses in the loan documents which means that you are violating the terms of the loan if you disclose to the public the terms of the loan.”

Morrel warned that, “Loans from China mandate that the public works contracts be awarded on a no bid, no compete basis.”

“When an emerging market accepts more money from China, that is statistically correlated with increased levels of corruption in the country that receives it,” Morell said.

Former Ombudsman and Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales

in her keynote described the BRI as “essentially China's blueprint to advance its geopolitical interest and an embodiment of China's dream of increasing its domestic and international power.”

“What is key at this time in history is a matter of proceeding with caution and a matter of understanding

the underlying implications of this engagement to the government, to our society, to our sovereignty, and to our future as a nation,” Carpio-Morales said.

Stratbase ADRi Fellow and De La Salle University Professor Edwin Santiago said, “Perhaps the most controversial and inflammatory issue about the CRPIP is the waiver of sovereign immunity in light of the experience of other countries such as Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Maldives with China. These countries have been reported to have had to give up their strategic national assets.”

Citing Philippine cases, Santiago explained, “At an interest rate of 2%, the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and the Kaliwa Dam project contracts to China were disadvantageous to the Philippines.

Compared to less than 0.2 percent. Remember the two projects, Chico river, Kaliwa Dam, were at an interest rate of 2 percent per annum, whereas we could have gotten it at 0.2% from other ODA funded projects such as those from South Korea and Japan.” Santiago said.

Stratbase ADRi President, Prof. Dindo Manhit in his statement said, “The people expect the President to protect the interests of the Philippines and its citizens, not the interests of a foreign government encroaching into our territories, exploiting our marine resources, and infecting our already fragile ecosystem with corrosive investments.” “As citizens we have the right to demand transparency, accountability, and the purging of these harmful foreign investments that are threatening our national security and socio-economic stability,” Manhit said.