Chinese loans not tied to joint oil exploration of disputed waters, says DOF
Big-ticket infrastructure and development projects to be rolled out by the Philippines in cooperation with China despite the territorial dispute between both nations over sections of the West Philippine Sea, with a three loan accords due for signing before the year ends.
In a press statement, the Department of Finance (DOF) also stressed that neither the maritime dispute nor the proposal of exploring the contested waters jointly for oil deposits came up during the regular meetings on the negotiations and processing of new loans with China, and even in the bilateral, high-level meetings between fiscal authorities and their Chinese counterparts.
“The topic of joint [oil] exploration was never raised in our discussions with our counterparts particularly during loan negotiations and processing of new loans, even during the bilateral meetings/ high-level meetings with this office,” the DOF said.
It issued the statement to debunk claims published online about a Chinese embassy official supposedly using China’s offers of loans and grants to force the Philippines to agree to a joint exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea.
“This is a grossly malicious claim without any basis,” the DOF said. “There is no link whatsoever between the Chinese loans and grants and the proposed joint oil exploration deal between the two countries.”
The department said that technical discussions on the loan agreements to be signed between the two countries are ongoing, with delays encountered “mostly due to our (the Philippine government’s) internal processes.”
“In fact, the proposed infrastructure projects we are undertaking with the cooperation of China all go through a very stringent process of approvals to ensure that they comply with the Government Procurement Act and other applicable laws,” it said.
To date, the Philippines has signed four grant agreements totalling 1.250 billion yuan (or $198.77 million) to finance projects and feasibility studies for various infrastructure projects.
Under the 500-million yuan grant signed in April 2018, about 110.33 million yuan ($17.55 million) has been allotted for the project feasibility studies of the Davao City expressway project and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island bridge project to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
During the High-Level Meetings between the Philippines and China held in Beijing last August, a list of 12 infrastructure projects proposed for feasibility study assistance was submitted to the Chinese government for its consideration. /kga
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