Philippines urged to reduce dependence on China-funded projects

EIA.EMB.GOV.PH

THE PHILIPPINES must stop counting on Chinese-funded projects due to ongoing tensions between the two countries that could derail the infrastructure program, policy think tank Infrawatch PH said. 

“Our infrastructure ambitions must not be held hostage to the whims of a single foreign power. Many international funding options are available that respect our sovereignty and offer more favorable terms,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of InfraWatch PH, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Philippines must diversify its funding sources, Mr. Ridon said, to facilitate a shift away from China-funded infrastructure projects.

He described the country’s continued resort to China as a funding source as a “risky entanglement” amid the worsening tensions arising from the two countries’ ongoing territorial dispute.

“In the delicate game of international relations, economic dependencies can become geopolitical vulnerabilities. Our economic strategies should not leave us exposed to pressures from a nation that challenges our territorial sovereignty,” he said. 

“These financial entanglements could potentially influence our political decisions, compromising our national interests in favor of external agendas,” Mr. Ridon added.

InfraWatch said the government must also reevaluate existing China-assisted projects, noting that the 2024 expenditures and sources of financing document still lists a number of major infrastructure projects funded by China.

The Department of Transportation has said that it is seeking the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority to increase the loan amount for three major infrastructure projects after withdrawing its official development assistance request from China due to lack of progress on the application.

Several loan agreements with China cover works that are classified as flagship projects by the Department of Finance, such as the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

“Canceling these projects is a definitive way to assert our national interests and sovereignty. It sends a strong signal to Beijing that we are serious about defending our sovereignty,” he said. — Ashley Erika O. Jose