MANILA--Makabayan Chairman Neri Colmenares and several progressive groups asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a $62-million loan from China to fund the construction of the Chico River Dam.
The petitioners argued the deal was unconstitutional because it contained a confidentiality clause that violates the Filipino public's right to information on foreign loans.
The agreement, they said, was also approved after-the-fact by the Monetary Board, which was against the requirement of prior concurrence under the law.
Under the deal, the project would also be awarded to a Chinese construction firm, thereby doing away with the country’s procurement laws and the Filipino First Policy, the petitioners said.
It also hauls the country to a Chinese arbitration tribunal, officiated by Chinese arbitrators using Chinese laws, in violation of the constitution, they said.
Lastly, the petitioners argued that the deal contained an express waiver of sovereign immunity over patrimonial assets in favor of a foreign government.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that Beijing could seize oil and gas-rich Philippine assets in the South China Sea if the country reneged on payment for the loan for the Chico River project.
Beijing, the petitioners noted, has competing claims with Manila over the west Philippine Sea, noted the petitioners in their plea for a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction against the loan.
China, they added, "defrauded" the Philippines when it withheld data on the location of resources in the waterway under a joint exploration agreement.
"To treat China in this Petition like any ordinary creditor State is a major mistake. Tuso ang gobiyerno ng Tsina at hindi maaring pagkatiwalaan," they said.
(The Chinese government is cunning and could not be trusted.)
Among the petitioners were party-list representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Emerenciana De Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, and Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro of Act Teachers.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Chairperson Danilo Ramos, and Kalinga leader Elma Tuazon were also among the petitioners.
Named as respondents were President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and several other Cabinet secretaries.
Government officials have maintained the loan agreement was not a debt trap and was properly screened by the Investment Coordination Committee composed of key Cabinet members.
Manila has also never defaulted on any loan agreement so the possibility of Beijing taking its assets "will never happen," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.