Malacañang assures transparency in PH infra deals with China

Robie de Guzman   •   March 19, 2019   •   1312

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has assured that it is ready to disclose the Philippines’ infrastructure agreements with Chinese firms to promote transparency in the bureaucracy.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the assurance on Monday (March 18) as the Duterte Economic Team heads to Beijing, China this week to tackle the Philippine government’s infrastructure projects.

“Well, that’s pursuant to transparency, yes. Why not?” Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

In a statement released on Monday (March 18), the Department of Finance announced the trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese Counterparts to discuss possible infrastructure cooperation with China for projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will lead the delegation.

The Philippine Officials are set to meet with top officials of China’s Ministry of Commerce and Vice President Wang Qishan on Tuesday (March 19) to firm up possible new cooperation deals.

“Other members of the Philippine delegation are scheduled to meet separately with officials of the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) and the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the office in charge of reviewing and implementing Beijing’s foreign aid projects,” the DOF added in a statement.

A Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) will also be held in Beijing on
Wednesday (March 20) “to showcase to potential investors the vast opportunities available to them in the Philippines as it emerges as an economic powerhouse in the region.”

The Duterte government is reportedly planning to spend P8 trillion for its infrastructure projects. At least one-third of these proposed projects will be financed by China, including the Chico River Irrigation Project, which has been hit for its one-sided loan agreement in favor of China.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad has earlier cautioned the Philippines against borrowing huge sums of money from China.

“If you borrow huge sums from China and you cannot pay—you know when a person is a borrower, he is under the control of the lender,” Mahathir said.

United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also warned other nations in 2018 about the potential dangers of accepting Chinese investments as Beijing expands its development projects to increasingly distant corners of the world.

“When China comes calling, it’s not always to the good of your citizens,” Pompeo said at a press briefing in Mexico City after a meeting with Panamian President Juan Carlos Varela in October 2018.

Pompeo’s remarks came as Washington’s own investment agency is actively competing with China to finance infrastructure projects, particularly in Panama.

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima also called on the Duterte administration to heed warnings from Malaysia and the United States against accepting loans from China.

“This is not the first time that top leaders or experts cautioned us about our dealings with China that could unfavorably affect our country’s future, both in the aspects of financial and territorial security. We need to learn from the unfortunate fate of others who borrowed before us,” de Lima said in a statement.

Despite criticisms and appeal against the move to take out foreign loan deals, Malacañang has repeatedly assured that the country will not fall into a debt trap with China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Palace: Duterte is now in the ‘green of health’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 18, 2019

Malacañang has announced that President Rodrigo Duterte is experiencing sickness due to old age and is now in the “green of health”, not pink.

On Sunday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president, who is now 74 years old, is “not normal” when it comes to his health.

“Hindi siya normal kasi nga, ang dami niyang nararamdaman. Kumbaga, kung sinabi ko noon na (He is not normal because he has a lot of illnesses. It’s like, if I said then) he was ‘in the pink of health’, ngayon (now) I think he is now ‘in the green of health’,” he said.

However, Panelo said despite these illnesses, Duterte continues to do his duties as the chief executive.

“If you will notice, kahit na ganyan siya, may nararamdaman, iyong kaniyang schedule ganoon pa rin, hindi pa rin nagbago (Even if he is experiencing illnesses [due to old age] his schedule remain unchanged), not only does he survive but he does it well,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Malacañang lambasts Drilon for calling Duterte’s infra program a ‘dismal failure’

Marje Pelayo   •   November 13, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang dismissed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s claim that the administration’s Build Build Build program is a dismal failure.

Drilon claimed that the administration has only started nine out of 75 flagship projects in the past three years in office.

“It is sad to say that the BBB program of the administration is a dismal failure. Out of the 75 flagship projects that were proposed at the start of the administration, exactly nine started construction,” Drilon told reporters.

“That is only two percent of the total,” he added.

But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was quick to dismiss Drilon’s claim as baseless stressing that the Duterte administration had accomplished more than the previous administration.

 “Senator Frank, look at the administration you previously belonged. Six years, not a single infrastructure na nagawa (was completed). Malayong-malayo sa dami [nang nagawa ng administrasyon ngayon] (It doesn’t compare with the achievements of this administration),” Panelo said.

“It’s baseless […] maraming ginagawa ang administrasyon (this administration is working on a lot of projects),” he added.

Malacañang believes that the current management of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is effectively handling these projects.

Thus, Panelo said the Palace is confident that before President Rodrigo Duterte ends his term, majority of the projects under the Build, Build, Build program will be completed. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

PH as world’s biggest rice importer concerns Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   November 12, 2019

Filipino port workers unload sacks of rice, which are imported from Vietnam to be distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA), inside a ship docked at Surigao port, Mindanao, southern Philippines. EPA-EFE/ALLANAH TORRALBA (FILE)

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang does not deny being concerned about recent reports that the Philippines is currently the world’s top rice importer.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, such report may be true but the government is making sure that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is on top of the situation.

“Ginagawa naman ni Secretary Dar ang kaniyang mga pamamaraan (Secretary Dar is finding ways) to solve whatever problems confronting the farmers,” Panelo said.

The report published by the United States’ Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS) projected the Philippines rice importation to reach a record high by year-end – about 3 million metric tons – the highest in the world and the country’s highest ever recorded.

This projection is way higher than China, the biggest rice importer so far at 2.5 million metric tons by year-end.

Malacañang, meanwhile, blames the country’s lack of irrigation as the main reason for the increase in rice importation. – MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

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