PH future with China: displacements, debt, and downfall

An international coalition of grassroots groups of small food producers and food sovereignty advocates slammed the Philippine government for seeking China to finance locally opposed megaprojects.

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) raised its apprehension during the state visit of China’s president Xi Jinping in Manila, Philippines on Nov. 20 to 21, 2018.

“These multi-million ‘development’ projects have long been disputed for decades. Yet [Philippine president Rodrigo] Duterte solicited China to realize his ‘Build, Build, Build’ program at the expense of the Philippines’ sovereignty,” said Sylvia Mallari, global co-chairperson of PCFS.

Mallari referred to the PHP 4.37 billion (USD 83.19 million) Chico River Irrigation Pump project in the provinces of Cagayan and Apayao, north of Philippines, whose loan deal was inked during Duterte’s bilateral meeting with Xi in April, and the second phase of the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Dam Project in Tarlac province, Central Luzon, which is considered as the biggest and most expensive locally-funded dam project costing PHP 15.36 billion (USD 292.39 million).

The proposals for the mega-dam projects date back in the 1960s. Affected communities especially the indigenous Kalinga peoples in Apayao and Aetas in Tarlac have been resisting the project for causing the loss of their livelihood and their displacement.

Both are included in the present administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, which aims to develop and alleviate the country from poverty through big-ticket infrastructure projects on energy, transportation, and communication, which would provide jobs to the population. Duterte has been invigorating its ties with China to fund and invest in the program.

“Duterte’s pet project empowers China because it fits in [the latter’s] Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a ‘cooperation’ to grab the land and resources of the people for private interests, and aggrieved countries cannot easily demand accountability from China for any damages,” Mallari said.

She cited the case of Chinese company Hengfu Sugar, owner of one of the biggest sugar mills in Asia, whose economic land concession allowed it to grab more than 10,000 hectares of land in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. It directly impacts 25 villages inhabited by more than 200,000 people.

“If anything, Duterte’s pet project will only ‘build, build, build’ foreign debt for the Philippines. The billions-worth of Chinese aid and loans are investments to profit from – unfortunately, at the expense of the communities,” said the PCFS official.

Mallari said that the Philippines may end up like Sri Lanka, which was forced to lease its Hambantota Port for 99 years to China as payment for the loans it failed to service.

She added that entering such agreements puts the Philippines in a much more inferior position to China politically, in addition to the West Philippine Sea territorial rift.

Mallari also slammed Duterte for proposing a joint oil exploration of the contested territory with the Chinese government.She said it will be another blow to Filipino fisherfolks who will be displaced,aside from the disruption and even destruction of marine wildlife.

“We urge Duterte to reconsider his position and assert the international tribunal ruling in The Hague on the West Philippine Sea’s exclusivity as an economic zone of the Philippines,” she added.

Mallari said that PCFS is giving its full support to today’s protest in the Philippines, which will be participated by some of the Coalition’s member organizations in the country. The action promotes the upholding of national sovereignty and a truly independent foreign policy. ###

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