President Rodrigo Duterte may have been fooled by China as no big-ticket project under his flagship Build, Build, Build has been realized with Chinese funding.
This was the analysis of the video titled “Where Are China’s Billions Promised To The Philippines?” posted last December 18 in the .CNA Insider YouTube channel.
Political scienist Richard Heydarian and author of the book “The Rise of Duterte” said China is taking Duterte for a ride.
“He (Duterte) has done a lot for China, and yet, what did he get from China in exchange? Up until today, there are practically zero big-ticket infrastructure projects by China in the implementation phase,” he said.
The video said that the China committed $24 billion in funding for large infrastructure projects in the Philippines covering 27 deals, which was supposed to usher in the “Golden Age of Infrastructure in the Philippines.”
One of the big projects pushed by China is the Kaliwa Dam project, which was fraught with environmental concerns.
Professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said infrastructure deals with China lacks safeguards, including those for the environment.
“Things like safeguards against corruption, requirements for social acceptability, requirements for minimum Filipino labor. Things like that as well as financial requirements, so China has not been able to comply with these stringent requirements,” Batongbacal said.
Peter Numford, head of Eurasia Group’s unit for Southeast Asia and South Asia, said that compared to Chinese infrastructure projects, those funded by Japan have moved ahead.
“There are technical, bureaucratic requirements on the Philippine side (for infrastructure projects) that slowed down projects, but we know that the Japanese in particular, other projects have moved ahead,” Numford said.
Batongbacal said that big projects that are funded by Japan and South Korea also takes into account environmental impact, with the dam project proposed by Japan in Rizal to also provide a long-term solution to Metro Manila’s water supply has components to save the environment like reforestation and rainwater harvesting.
One of the critics of the Kaliwa Dam project, Bishop Bernardino Cruz Cortez of the Roman Catholic Prelature of Infanta, Quezon, said a whole community of indigenous people will be wiped out by the Kaliwa Dam project and Daraitan, which is one of the most biodiverse areas in the Sierra Madre, will also disappear.
“All of this will be eradicated by the Kaliwa dam (project),” he said.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the Kaliwa Dam project pushed by China shows the unhealthy relations between the Philippines and China.
“This relationship between Duterte and China, it’s a very toxic relationship that results in the victimization of the Filipino people,” Dulce said.
The Kaliwa Dam project still not getting off the ground along with other big-ticket infrastructure projects supposedly to be supported by Chinese funding shows that China may be lying about its role in infrastructure development in Southeast Asia.
“The narrative that everything built in Southeast Asia is built by China is invented by China, because it creates diplomatic benefits for Beijng,” said Gregory Pooling, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States.
DUTERTE LOOKING BAD
Hence, Heydarian said that China is not good .for Duterte and his image, saying it’s “bad for him and his successor, and makes him look weak.”
Heydarian added that what China was offering the Philippines was a debt trap. “Forget about the Chinese debt trap. This is a Chinese chimera.”
And one of the reasons why no big Chinese project has moved ahead until now is Beijng very well knows that Duterte’s term will end in June 2022.
“China is cognizant that Duterte is not in office forever,” Numford said, adding the Asian giant might use the money they are holding back to offer to Duterte’s successor.
Heydarian also said the defense establishment is asking questions about Duterte’s relations with China.
“So, Duterte kind of looks like a fool, to be honest, and that has been used by the defense establishment to say, ‘Hey, we’re not getting much love from China,” the political scientist said.
“The Americans, they may be imperfect allies, but they’re the best insurance policy we got. So, maybe we need to make adjustments,” Heydarian said. SOVEREIGNPH