A think tank study identified several transparency and accountability issues in four Chinese funded infrastructure projects that need to be addressed to safeguard Philippine interests.
Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) President, Prof. Dindo Manhit said, “This paper is part of the institute’s advocacy partnership with International think tank Center for International Private Enterprise and a broad network of think tanks in the region to study the impact of Chinese investments on fragile economies like the Philippines.”
“It is the responsibility of the government to ensure transparency and accountability when it comes to transactions with other states especially for foreign investments,” Manhit said.
According to the paper titled, “Chinese Investments in The Philippines: Are They Corrosive Capital?” featured in “SPARK”, a quarterly online publication of ADRi and authored by Prof. Edwin Santiago of the De La Salle University Political Science Department, “These projects have become controversial for the Duterte administration primarily due to allegations that they followed a unique way of doing things that disregarded the rule of law and characteristically lacked transparency and accountability.”
Prof. Santiago said that one of the common issues was the severe lack of transparency in the deals and “Critical information seem to be left out deliberately to force some form of interpretation inconsistency that could eventually weaken one’s data presentation and analysis.”
“For instance, leaving out the exchange rate used in the computations will invariably lead to inconsistencies with government data”•such incongruence can be used to undermine the credibility of the data,” Santiago said.
Citing the case of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP), Santiago said, “Although to the government’s credit, while more information was disclosed in other projects, they were still significantly incomplete. For the selection of project contractors, there is no information about how CAMCE (China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd.) was selected for the CRPIP. Even conflicting pronouncements from cabinet members regarding the issues surrounding the selection were largely ignored and allowed to die down.”
He adds, “For the NCWS-KDP (New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project), while the negative findings from the Commission on Audit about the bidding process were publicized, no action resulting from the findings was ever disclosed. It is practically the same level of information dissemination insofar as the bidding process for the selection of the third telecommunications player in the Philippines and the Safe Philippines project are concerned.”
Santiago further stated that the government’s claim “that the agreements have been vetted”•even if true”•does not necessarily mean that there is nothing wrong with them.”
“Moreover, using as defense the reason that these are standard provisions in loan agreements with China does not abandon the point that they are indeed onerous. Also, it hardly offers any explanation as to why our government officials will concede to terms that are unconstitutional at worst or burdensome at best. If at all, this raises the question as to why the Philippines would even consider loans from China,” Santiago said.