Chinese companies that were either blacklisted or involved in anomalous projects are among those that pledged new investments in the Philippines during President Rodrigo Duterte's China trip last week.
China Road and Bridge Corp. was debarred by World Bank for bid rigging in the Philippines, while China CAMC Engineering, an affiliate of Sinomach, was the contractor of the anomalous North Rail project.
On the other hand, CCCC Dredging was involved in the construction of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque, who was part of Duterte's delegation to China last week, admitted he feels uneasy with these deals, having been involved in cases against Chinese companies.
"We questioned the Catanduanes Circumferential Road and China Road and Bridge was a contractor. We said that it is null and void because it did not comply with the maximum price ceiling rule provided in what was then a brand new government procurement act. We lost in the Philippine Supreme Court but the World Bank blacklisted actually that company," Roque told ANC's "Beyond Politics" on Tuesday.
Unlike in the case against China Road and Bridge, the government scored a victory against Sinomach.
"Another company that we sued before Philippine courts is Sinomach for North Rail. After almost 10 years of legal battle, we won a decision from the Philippine Supreme Court that North Rail was also illegal because it did not comply with competitive bidding as provided by government procurement," Roque said.
The law professor-turned-lawmaker said that he skipped the signing of the memoranda of understanding between the Philippine government and these companies.
"And so that's why I skipped altogether the signing of the MOUs between state companies and Philippine corporations be it private or government-owned," Roque admitted.
Roque, however, was quick to say that the benefits that came with the transactions cannot be easily ignored.
"I have discomforts with the track record of some of the state-owned companies, but the reality is you can't ignore that China today is an economic giant and we must benefit somehow from the tremendous economic growth of China," Roque said.
Roque vowed to keep a close watch on these deals and to sue Chinese companies again if he has to.
Meanwhile, maritime law expert and UP Law Professor Jay Batongbacal said the Philippines appears to be squandering leverage from arbitral tribunal ruling as it accepts concessions and deals from China.
"What's happening is that it seems like this leverage is not being considered. It's being disregarded completely. It's being set aside for later, but in the meantime the negotiations are ongoing, you're already accepting concessions and deals," Batongbacal said.
"It's like you're squandering the huge leverage that was built up, and on the part of the international community, it's like they had put their support, they marshaled their support, ultimately for nothing, because it's not being used," he added.