Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate economic committee, admonished the Department of Finance to be transparent on the Duterte administration’s loan agreements with China to allay fears the country might fall into a “debt trap.”
Malacañang earlier announced that more than $12 billion worth of new investments and trade deals were sealed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China last week.
The investments China committed during the Belt and Road Forum cover infrastructure, energy, petrochemical, and industrial park projects, which are expected to create more than 21,000 jobs for Filipinos.
“We are happy with this $12-billion because this is an additional investment but they should also be transparent and upload in the website of the DOF the transactions and the investments that will enter our country,” he said.
“Are these loans? Grants? (We need to know) because there are sensitive matters like oil exploration and the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian added.
Gatchalian said he also talked to members of the government economic team on the need to institute measures to ensure Filipino workers will not be at a disadvantage with the influx of Chinese workers amid Beijing-funded projects.
Reelectionist Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, stressed that Filipino construction workers must be prioritized for jobs under the administration’s Build, Build, Build projects.
“We hope that before they sign any contract, it should be made clear that our Filipino construction workers should be 100 percent prioritized,” Binay said.
In the supplemental guidelines for the issuance of Special Working Permits to those applying for jobs in the Philippines, foreigners are not allowed to work as construction workers, cashiers, waiters, janitors, household workers, carpenters, garbage collectors, security guards, and warehouse caretakers, among others.
“The agreement to accommodate Chinese construction workers in the Philippines is unfair and disadvantageous to local workers,” Binay added.