MANILA - Chinese firms banned in the United States can continue doing business in the Philippines, Malacañang said Tuesday as it greenlighted an airport project with a China-run corporation blacklisted by Washington.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the continuation of the Sangley Airport project in Cavite, even after its foreign contractor--China Communications Construction Co (CCCC)--was reported to have been blacklisted by the US.
The move highlights the independence of the Philippines, Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque said as he noted that Manila needs Chinese investors.
"I will be categorical, Sangley project will continue. All other projects involving Chinese companies that are banned in the US can continue in the Philippines," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
"We are not a vassal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest," he added.
Since assuming power, President Duterte has moved to foster closer ties with China, distancing the Philippines from its traditional ally--the US.
The closer ties between Manila and Beijing were pursued even as the two nations remain locked in a maritime dispute as China refuses to recognize a court ruling that invalidated its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
Last Aug. 28, the US blacklisted several Chinese firms--including the CCCC--over its alleged role in building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
The CCCC, operated by the Chinese government, and tycoon Lucio Tan's MacroAsia bagged the Sangley Point International Airport project in 2019.
The $10 billion project, which involves land reclamation and expansion of an existing airport, is part of the government's infrastructure overhaul.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said he would recommend the termination of the Philippines' relationship with Chinese companies blacklisted by the US.
But Roque on Monday said President Duterte was clear in saying that the Philippines will continue to transact with Chinese firms despite the US' recent step.
"Malinaw po ang sinabi ni Presidente. Hindi siya susunod sa direktiba ng mga Amerikano dahil tayo po ay malaya at independienteng bansa at kinakailangan po natin ang mga namumuhunan galing sa bansang Tsina," Roque said.
(The President was clear: he will not follow the directives of the Americans because we are a free and independent nation, and we need investors from China.)