Threat to national security? Probe urged into alleged connivance between gov’t, Chinese firms blacklisted by US

September 2, 2020 - 11:03 AM
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This Oct. 31, 2017 satellite image shows China's construction on Mischief or Panganiban Reef, which is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. (CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday sought for a Senate probe into the possible collusion between government officials and Chinese entities in the construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros was referring to the United States blacklist of Chinese firms that contributed to the dredging and construction of artificial military islands in the disputed waters.

One of the companies in the blacklist is China Communications Construction Co., Ltd. (CCCC) that has subsidiaries with infrastructure projects signed with the Philippine government.

In a statement on September 1, Hontiveros questioned why the government allowed this to happen and raised the possibility that some government officials might be conniving and collaborating with these firms.

She filed Senate Resolution No. 509 that urges the Senate to investigate the matter.

“Naghain ako ng resolusyon kanina para maimbestigahan kung may sabwatan ba ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno, sinumang indibidwal, o mga grupo sa Pilipinas sa patuloy na pagtatayo ng artificial islands at military installations ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.

“It’s been recently revealed that Chinese companies that participate in the building of military islands in the West PH Sea have projects with the Philippine government, so it is not hard to suspect dubious engagement by either party. Ano pa ang hindi natin alam?” she added.

Naghain ako ng resolusyon kanina para maimbestigahan kung may sabwatan ba ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno, sinumang…

Posted by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, August 31, 2020

 

Hontiveros also stressed on Twitter that she hoped the appropriate Senate committee will probe such concern.

“Ano pa ang hindi natin alam? I hope the appropriate Committee looks into the resolution I filed,” she said.

 

In a separate statement, she noted that China had been constructing artificial islands in the disputed waters furnished with long-range sensor rays, port facilities, runways, bunkers for fuel and weapons, and barracks for their military personnel.

Aside from national security, the lawmaker also expressed alarm and fear over the safety and the livelihood of the fishermen within these areas.

“It is alarming that the island bases have put the Philippine archipelago within range of Chinese combat aircraft and bombers. This is a clear threat to our national security. Ang mga artificial islands na ito ay ginagawang ding outpost ng mga Chinese maritime militia na nanghaharass ng mga mangingisdang Pilipino,” Hontiveros said.

The blacklist

Based on international reports, the Trump administration banned 11 more Chinese companies from buying American products.

They were accused of helping the Chinese military in constructing the artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea since 2013.

One of the companies listed is the CCCC, an infrastructure giant that partnered with Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corporation tasked to build the Sangley Point International Airport in Cavite worth P500 billion.

This company was also previously banned from the World Bank due to fraudulent practices from 2011 to 2017.

Aside from the airport, Hontiveros named other ambitious infrastructure projects the government has with CCCC’s subsidiaries:

  1. The Davao Coastline and Port Development Project
  2. The Manila Harbor Center Reclamation Project
  3. The Cebu International and Bulk Terminal Project
  4. The Manila-Clark railway

In an interview with CNN Philippines on August 28, Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. recommended terminating local contracts with these large companies, similar to the United States’ blacklist.

“Yes, if I find any of those companies are doing business with us, then I would strongly recommend we terminate that relationship with them. If they were in any way involved in the reclamation, then it becomes consistent on our part to terminate any contract with them,” Locsin said.

However, in a press briefing on September 1, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the country will not halt the projects with China firms that the US blacklisted.