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Senators: PH patrimonial assets not up for China loan collateral

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

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)

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22 Filipino crew in Recto Bank collision on their way home

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

The 22 Filipino fishermen in the Recto Bank collision held a press briefing aboard a ship en route to Mindoro| Courtesy: Sec. Manny Piñol’s Facebook page

The 22 crew of the Filipino fishing boat that was allegedly hit by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea are on their way home to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

They are expected to arrive in their hometown on Saturday, according to the report of UNTV News and Rescue correspondent Sherwin Culubong.

Although none sustained injuries, the crew will undergo medical checkup and debriefing upon their arrival in San Jose.

They will also be asked to give statements on what really happened at the Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) on the night of June 9.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana on June 12 bared that a suspected Chinese fishing vessel hit and sank Filipino boat, F/B GIMVER 1.

READ: DND: Chinese vessel hit, sank PH vessel in Recto Bank

He denounced the actions of the alleged Chinese crew for leaving the scene and abandoning the Filipino crew at sea.

Lorenzana also expressed gratitude to a Vietnamese crew in the area who came to the aid of Filipinos.

The family of one of the Filipino fishermen also thanked the Vietnamese crew for their swift action.

“Malaki po ang pasasalamat namin, kahit hindi natin sila kaano [kalahi] pero tinulungan po sila,” said Maria Fe dela Torre, whose husband owns the boat that collided with the foreign vessel.

They also expressed hope that the Duterte government will seriously investigate the incident and give justice to the Filipino crewmen.

“Ang unang reaksyon namin nagulat, nataranta kami tapos galit kasi bakit di nila tinulungan tao namin? Nakita nila na lumulubog,” said May dela Torre, kin of one of the fishermen, when asked about their initial reaction upon learning about the incident.

“Kasi kung ‘di talaga nila sinasadya or aksidente talaga, kung tao sila, titigilan mo, tutulungan mo. Wala eh. Umalis sila eh. Iba ang nagrescue sa kanila,” she added.

Lorenzana earlier said that China has been informed about the incident and a probe has already been launched.

He also said they are now verifying if the fishing vessel that hit and sank the F/B GIMVER 1 belonged to China.

READ: DND: PH verifying if ship in West PH Sea collision belonged to China

Malacañang earlier called on Beijing to impose proper sanctions against the Chinese crewmen for their “uncivilized” and “outrageous” actions.

READ: PH wants China to sanction ship crew for sinking Filipino fishing boat

The Philippine government also said it is ready to sever its ties with China should it be proven that the Filipino fishing boat was intentionally hit.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin has assured that a diplomatic protest has been filed over the collision incident.

READ: Locsin files diplomatic protest vs China after West PH Sea collision

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture assured to provide assistance to the Filipino fishermen and to their families.

“Puwede kaming tumulong na maipa-repair at temporarily mawalan ng hanapbuhay ‘yung mga mangingisda. Pwede naming tulungan, mayroon kaming mga loaning program for them,” said Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

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Senators on West PH Sea collision: ‘A huge insult’ to Filipinos

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Several senators have condemned the reported collision of a Chinese vessel and a Filipino vessel on Sunday (June 9), deeming it ‘a huge insult’ to Filipinos.

Sen. Joel Villanueva called the actions of the Chinese crew as irresponsible after they left the 22 Filipino crewmen in the West Philippine Sea.

“We strongly condemn the irresponsible actions of the Chinese vessel’s crew. Saving the lives of fellow seafarers should be top priority regardless of nationality or flag. The incident shows the need for greater accountability and enforcement of international laws in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in his statement.

READ: Locsin files diplomatic protest vs China after West PH Sea collision

Senators Franklin Drilon shares the same sentiment with Senator Panfilo Lacson. They are both questioning the friendly relationship between China and the Philippines.

Senator Lacson calls for a talk between the country’s leaders.

“This incident calls for a leader-to-leader talk. As I said, nothing short of serious punitive action by the Chinese government against those responsible can convince us of a real friendly relationship between our peoples,” he said.

According to Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs & Law of the Sea- University of the Philippines Prof. Jay Batongbacal this is not the first time a Chinese vessel hit another country’s fishing vessel.

“Marami itong beses na nangyari sa Vietnam binabangga ng mga Chinese vessel iyong mga Vietnamese fishing vessel, (It had occurred numerous times in Vietnam where a Chinese vessel hit a Vietnamese fishing vessel)” he said.

Batongbacal also seeks accountability for what happened. He said that the Filipino crewmen should be given compensation.

“Kung hindi tayo aalma, kung palalampasin natin ito baka ang susunod na diyan lahat ng ating mga mangingisda diyan sa West Philippine sea ay gaganyanin din, babanggain, iha-harass hanggang sa umalis na tayo sa West Philippine Sea, (If we will not protest, they might also target other fishermen in the West Philippine Sea. They might harass us until we leave the West Philippine Sea)” Batongbacal added.(with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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Locsin files diplomatic protest vs China after West PH Sea collision

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. has filed a diplomatic protest against China after a collision with a Filipino vessel.

READ: DND: Chinese ship hit, sank PH vessel in West PH Sea

Locsin condemned the abandonment of the Filipino crew after a Chinese vessel allegedly hit and sank the Filipino vessel last Sunday (June 9).

“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the scene of the incident, abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the foreign secretary expressed gratitude to the crew of the Vietnamese vessel for saving the lives of the 22 Filipinos.

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