Senators: PH patrimonial assets not up for China loan collateral

Robie de Guzman   •   March 27, 2019   •   2100

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)

Palace says Sanchez not eligible for release under good conduct law

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez | Courtesy: PTV

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Friday that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez is not eligible for early release from prison under the new law increasing the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Sanchez, who was convicted of a heinous crime, is not entitled to benefit from the Republic Act 10592 which shortens a prisoner’s jail term for good behavior.

“Mr. Sanchez, under republic act number 10592 is not eligible so the President as the chief enforcer of the law have to follow the law,” Panelo said.

In an earlier statement, Malacañang supported Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in stressing that the law excludes “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” from the benefit of its coverage.

Sanchez has been in jail for over 25 years since he was convicted for the rape and murder of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez in 1995.

Panelo was the defense lawyer of Sanchez when he was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua.

The former mayor was reported earlier to be among the 11,000 persons deprived of who might soon be freed due to a 2013 law that increased the GCTA given to inmates and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

The news has sparked outrage among the public.

Sanchez’s eligibility under the new GCTA rule was also questioned by lawmakers and other sectors due to allegations of possession of illegal drugs after a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. An air condition unit and a television set were also seized from his cell, which are violation of prison rules.

The report on Sanchez’s possible release also “enraged” President Rodrigo Duterte, according to his former aide and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

“Nung nag-usap kami ng Pangulo talagang nagalit din siya, at sinabi niya di rin siya sang-ayon at may mga sinite din siya na batas na minimum, in short ayaw din nya, galit po sya,” Go said in a radio interview when asked about the president’s reaction.

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier said Sanchez may be disqualified from availing the provisions of the good conduct time allowance law for his alleged violations of prison rules.

The BuCor also assured to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who were convicted of high-profile, heinous crimes or grave crimes that show extreme moral depravity. (RRD with details from correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang believes there is nothing wrong with the location of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs near military camps following concerns about its possible risk to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Chinese-dominated POGO hubs’ will be better protected if these are near military installations.

“Military camps? Eh di lalong magaling kung military camps dahil binabantayan sila ng military for their protection,” he told reporters in an interview.

However, Panelo said he would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson to assess any security issue being posed by foreign operated online gaming operations.

“The Palace will always defer to the National Security Adviser on matters of security in the country,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said that providing protection to POGO hubs by the military is a “very valid suggestion,” but this is not part of their mandate.

However, he assured they are ready to help when their assistance is requested.

“That’s a very valid suggestion. But it is not the job of the military to watch or protect the POGO workers,” Lorenzana said.

“That is the job of the Bureau of Immigration, Police, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If our assistance is requested, we will assist,” he added.

Esperon has yet to issue any comment on the issue as of this posting.

Several lawmakers earlier raised a concern about Chinese-dominated POGO hubs near military camps and other vital installations, saying these pose risk to the country’s security.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier defended its decision to situate POGO hubs and its foreign workers in areas near military camps for their security and rights protection.

Pagcor chairperson and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo said hubs for online casinos and self-contained communities were mainly created to provide basic needs and ensure the safety of foreign workers employed in POGO hubs. She added that POGO workers are free to go wherever they want to.

Domingo’s statement came after the Embassy of China in the Philippines raised concern over the creation of self-contained communities as this might violate Chinese workers’ liberties.

“So, if their liberties are not restricted and according to them, ginagawa nga nila iyon to protect them, so, kung ganoon naman ang essence noong paglagay sa kanilang lugar, I don’t think that will be a violation,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Police presence not a solution to communist recruitment in schools— Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang expressed concern over reports of alleged student recruitment in universities and campuses across the country to join the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

However, the Palace is not keen on deploying policemen inside university and college campuses since student recruitment by rebels is done discreetly.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted that though Malacañang sees nothing wrong with joining progressive groups as an avenue to express one’s sentiments to the government, the case is different when a student joins an organization promoting ideologies that seek to destabilize the government.

Panelo added that it is still important for parents to remind their children to be wise in joining student organizations in schools.

“Kung papasok ka sa mga organisasyon…na ang intensyon ay pabagsakin ang gobyerno, wrong iyon (if [a student] joins an organization that intends to destabilize the government, that would be wrong),” Panelo said.

“Pero (But if) you join organizations to express legitimate grievances against (the government) gobyerno, certainly it’s not,” Panelo concluded.

Panelo noted, meanwhile, that a thorough study is highly necessary before the Palace considers the proposal to revive the anti-subversion law to end insurgency in the country. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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