"Here are the highlights of our recent foreign policy forum."
Renewed swarming of 287 Chinese militia vessels in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) proves the relentless deception that sadly, our government still tolerates. Thanks to the courageous statesmanship of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Ambassador Albert del Rosario and former Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio championing our national interests and the rule of law, like-minded and powerful countries are coalescing into a formidable intercontinental alliance to challenge China’s intensifying aggression which is threatening the stability of Indo-Pacific states.
Beijing’s belittling of our sovereignty and legal territorial rights, and its destructive raids into our EEZ have pervasively provoked a simmering distrust and hostility from our people.
This escalating discord in the South China Sea links the hidden agendas of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which was thoroughly dissected during the latest Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute’s (ADRi) foreign policy forum where geopolitical thinkers exchanged insights on the repercussions of corrosive capital relative to the BRI. The following statements of the esteemed speakers reveal how corrosive investments begets large scale corruption.
Former Supreme Court Associate Justice and Ombudsman, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, in her keynote said that the Philippines’ natural resources are being bidded as collateral in transactions with clauses that waive sovereign immunity on our patrimonial assets to satisfy China as a lender which is a clear threat to seize assets and imposition of might.
“In its lopsided nature and with distaste for transparency, it is a good recipe for corruption and favor to selfish political interest,” Morales said.
ADRi Trustee and Program Convenor, and Senior Fellow of the La Salle Institute of Governance, Dr. Francisco Magno called for scrutiny of corporate ownership patterns, investment deals, and intergovernmental arrangements involving China to identify threats of state capture and manipulation.
“Corrosive capital is often marked by opaque financial flows from authoritarian states that undermine the rule of law and democratic governance in other countries.,” Magno said.
Center for International Private Enterprise Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, John Morrell, explained two onerous strings attached to loans from China. First are ironclad non-disclosure clauses on terms of the loan and then the requirement that an exclusive Chinese contractor must be engaged for the project. A blatant violation of the Philippine procurement law.
“When an emerging market accepts more money from China, that is statistically correlated with increased levels of corruption in the country that receives it,” Morrel said.
Stratbase ADRi Trustee and De La Salle University Professor, Dr. Renato de Castro explained that the BRI is part of what Xi Jinping calls the Rejuvenation of the Great Chinese nation and the goal is to transform Southeast Asia into a Sino-centric region.
“BRI provided China with a very effective instrument, creating a wedge between allies, the Philippines and the United States and adding impact to its core interests in the South China Sea,” de Castro said.
Former UN Office of Internal Oversight Undersecretary General and Former Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza lamented that “there is no evaluation of the necessity of incurring public debt and the analysis of most appropriate and advantageous sources of funding including reviewing the reasonableness of management basis in immediately implementing the project funded by loans.”
ADRi Fellow and De La Salle Professor, Edwin Santiago cited as an example, the interest rates of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and the Kaliwa Dam Project contracts with China which at 2 percent is grossly disadvantageous compared to only 0.2 percent offered by South Korea and Japan. Most controversial is the waiver of sovereign immunity putting our national assets at risk as experienced by Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Maldives.
InfraWatch PH Convenor and ADRi Non-Resident Fellow, Atty. Terry Ridon reminded that of the promised $32 billion Chinese loans, only less than 5 percent has come true, akin to “how the President has been making promises of a lot of things.”
Ridon pressed that with the looming elections, the public must realize that the Chinese-funded infrastructure projects are not in the best interest of the nation.
ADRi Non-Resident Fellow Richard Heydarian said that, if you look at the key cases, it seems that the more corrupt the countries are, the more corrosive the Chinese investments can get.
Heydarian pointed out that President Duterte doesn’t have much to show for his pivot to China with the militia harassment in the West Philippine Sea and the economy getting worse.
ADRi President, Prof. Dindo Manhit, for his part, said: “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure transparency and accountability when it comes to transactions with other states especially for foreign investments. The Duterte administration must stop its appeasement policy to China and bring its focus back on our national interests.”
“As citizens we have the right to demand transparency, accountability, and the purging of these harmful foreign investments that are threatening our national security and socio-economic stability,” Manhit said.