Senators: PH patrimonial assets not up for China loan collateral

Robie de Guzman   •   March 27, 2019   •   2211

This magnificent stretch of the Chico River in Brgy. Katabbogan, Pinukpuk, Kalinga will be the source of the P4.37 Billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, which aims to irrigate 8,700 hectares in Kalinga and Cagayan.Emerging from the slopes of Mt. Data of Bauko, Mountain Province, the Chico River, the most extensive river in the Cordilleras; traverse through several municipalities of Mountain Province and Kalinga before it merges with the Cagayan River. | Courtesy: National Irrigation Administration

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators believe that it is unlikely for the Philippines to default on its loans to China.

This is following concerns raised by some groups that China could seize natural resources in the hotly contested territories in the West Philippine Sea, if the Philippines fails to pay its loan obligations.

Last week, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that the infrastructure loan agreement with China could put the country at a disadvantage.

Carpio claims the loan deal for the $62-million Chico River Irrigation project allows China to seize gas-rich Recto Bank (also known as Reed Bank) if the Philippines is unable to pay for its debts.

READ: Philippines at a disadvantage over Chico River deal

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon explained that the Philippines automatically pays its debts because the Presidential Decree No. 1177 mandates the automatic appropriations for annual debt servicing.

“So that provision on patrimonial property being held to pay for these debts will never happen,” he said.

Lacson also echoed Drilon’s statement, however, he does not agree with any loan provision that puts up any Philippine natural resources as collateral.

“But to say that the patrimonial assets could be collateralized, I think it’s wrong. In that case I disagree,” he said.

Malacañang has earlier said that the government has no plans of declaring Reed Bank as a patrimonial asset of the Philippines.

However, Carpio noted that under the Oil and Exploration Development Act of 1972, the Energy Department has already granted a service contract to exploit gas on the reed bank.

The move, Carpio said, made the oil and gas deposits in the area as the country’s patrimonial assets.

Patrimonial assets refer to government-owned properties which are not for public use, but are alienable and disposable.

A law is necessary to convert a public property to patrimonial asset.

Constitutional Law Expert Prof. Tony La Viña agreed with Carpio’s stance.

“He is correct. We converted potential oil resources into patrimonial assets. We already collateralized it in our commercial transactions,” La Viña said

La Viña has long been studying the government’s loan agreements, noting that the provision on patrimonial assets as collateral has always been stated in deals made with China.

“They really want collateral, but it’s not a standard when it comes to other foreign loan deals. Let’s be clear about that. That’s why China already took over ports, airports. They take over what are called patrimonial assets,” he said.

According to reports, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that had fallen into china’s debt trap. Chinese State-owned companies allegedly took over its strategic airport, the Hambantota, after it failed to pay its over $1 billion debt.  

Djibouti in East Africa was also reported to be in danger of falling into debt trap, with China poised to take control of its ports.          

The Department of Finance and Malacañang have insisted that the government did not offer any of the country’s natural resources as collateral for the loan deals it took with China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

OFW deployment ban to Kuwait to stay until 2018 labor pact fully implemented – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The total deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait will remain in effect until the labor agreement signed in 2018 between the two countries is fully implemented, Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the labor department’s call for a total ban on deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Kuwait following the killing of household service worker Jeanelyn Villavende.

“The Palace wishes to inform the public that President Duterte has approved the recommendation of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III on the total deployment ban of Filipino workers in Kuwait,” Panelo said.

He added that the ban will stay until the memorandum of agreement between the two countries is fully honored and “the terms contained therein are incorporated in every labor contract with our OFWs.”

Bello earlier said he recommended a total deployment ban to Kuwait after results of a re-autopsy by the National Bureau of Investigation revealed that Villavende had several missing internal organs and had “clear indications of sexual abuse.”

The re-autopsy was conducted after a certificate released by Kuwait’s Ministry of Health showed that Villavende died of “acute failure of heart and respiration” as a result of shock and multiple injuries.

In a statement on Thursday, Bello said the implementation of a total deployment ban of workers was fueled by the alleged attempt of the Kuwaiti government “to cover-up the true case of death” of Villavende.

He said the re-autopsy on the Filipino worker’s remains was in complete contrast to the report of the Kuwaiti authorities.

Bello also said that another cause for the ban was the failure of the Kuwaiti government to come into an agreement regarding the standard employment contract in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement in 2018.

“Under the MOU, we were supposed to come up with a standard employment contract in order to provide sufficient protection for our OFWs. That’s almost two years ago of discussing and debating but until now, we have not finalized anything,” Bello said.

The total ban covers the processing and deployment of all household service workers, semi-skilled, skilled workers and professionals including Filipino crew seafarers for Kuwait.

However, skilled workers and professionals who have unexpired contracts or categorized as Balik-Manggagawa, and those who will be cleared by the Secretary of Labor are exempted from the ban.

“Those who will come home for a vacation and has an existing contract are still allowed to travel to Kuwait, however, workers with new contracts will be covered by the ban. This move is nothing less than for the protection of our workers,” Bello said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

PHL, Chinese Coast Guard hold joint maritime drills in Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard on Wednesday conducted joint maritime drills on search and rescue and combating fire at sea in the waters off the Philippine capital.

In a statement, the PCG said participating Filipino and Chinese personnel were given a scenario involving a vessel that caught fire while transiting Manila waters.

In response, the PCG deployed its 44-meter multi-role response vessel 4401, BRP Tubbataha, while the Chinese team dispatched vessel 5204. Both ships were equipped with water cannons used in firefighting assistance.

Five passengers and eight crew aboard the distressed ship were also rescued using rigid hull inflatable boats with rescue swimmers to aid the victims.

The PCG said the drill allows coast guard personnel to exercise interoperability and strengthen their capabilities in responding to such crises.

The joint maritime drills on search and rescue, and combating fire at sea are part of the week-long activities of Chinese Coast Guard’s port call in Manila.

The visit aims to strengthen understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between the Philippines and China Coast Guard in a bid to promote maritime security and maritime law enforcement amid the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

Palace suspends gov’t work, classes in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon due to Taal ashfall

Robie de Guzman   •   January 13, 2020

Villagers take shelter inside a church during an eruption of Taal Volcano, in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, 12 January 2020. Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as authorities in the Philippines raised the alert due to increased activity of Taal volcano, located on an island near Manila. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level from 1 to 3 – on a scale of 5 – after an increase in activity in the crater resulted in an eruption spewing steam and ash up to one-kilometer-high. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has suspended classes in all levels and work in government offices on Monday, January 13, in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon due to the Taal volcano ashfall.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, by authority of President Rodrigo Duterte announced the class and gov’t work suspension around midnight in areas affected by the ashfall “except frontline response agencies involved in disaster response,mdelivery of basic and health service, and/or other vital services.”

“The private sector is highly encouraged to suspend work for the safety of their employees,” Medialdea added.

Earlier, local government units have declared class suspensions in all levels in view of the Taal volcano ash explosion.

These areas include:
• Batangas province, including municipalities around Taal lake (Talisay, Balete, Mataas na Kahoy, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Agoncillo, Laurel)
• Cavite Province
• Laguna
• Metro Manila
• Bataan
• Bulacan province
• Pampanga
• Capas, Tarlac
• Concepcion, Tarlac

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised the alert level 4 over Taal Volcano on Sunday night, which means a hazardous explosion is imminent within hours or days.

Phivolcs also recommended that residents in Taal island and high-risk barangays in the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel in Bagangas be evacuated due to possible hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami.

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