U.S. airs concerns over involvement of blacklisted China firm in Manila Bay reclamation

August 2, 2023 - 7:25 PM
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Manila Bay reclamation
Reclamation projects in Manila Bay in this photo shared by Sen. JV Ejercito on his Twitter account on Feb. 16, 2023 (jvejercito/Twitter)

 The United States has expressed concern over the involvement of a Chinese state-owned firm that it blacklisted for its role in constructing and militarizing artificial South China sea islands in Philippine reclamation projects.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Kanishka Gangopadhyay, said Washington also expressed to the Philippine government its concern about the “potential negative long-term and irreversible impacts” of the project and other reclamation activities on the environment.

China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) 601800.SS was among dozens of Chinese firms the United States blacklisted in 2020 for its role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea, most of which China claims as its own.

“We are concerned with both the impact the project will have on the environment and on the involvement of CCCC. These are separate issues,” Gangopadhyay told reporters.

CCCC had also been cited by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for engaging in fraudulent business practices, he said.

Following the U.S. blacklisting, then Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin had said he would recommend the Philippine government terminate deals with Chinese firms included in the list.

Two of the six approved reclamation projects in the Manila Bay are being carried out by CCCC units, China Harbor Engineering company and China First Highway Engineering Co. Ltd, together with Philippine companies and city governments, the Philippine Reclamation Authority said (PRA).

There was no immediate comment from CCCC.

Manila Bay’s shores are home to a number of historical sites and government offices, including the U.S. Embassy.

Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga told a media briefing on Wednesday the ministry will conduct an impact assessment of the approved projects.

Joseph John Literal, PRA assistant general manager for reclamation and regulation, said the PRA will confer with the city governments involved. He added the proponents of the projects have secured multi-agency permits before the projects were approved by the PRA.

($1 = 55.1200 Philippine pesos)

—Reporting by Karen Lema