MANILA--President Rodrigo Duterte's order for government agencies to review contracts with private firms and foreign entities should include his administration's loan deals with China, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Thursday.
"Dapat kasama rin iyung mga kontratang pinasok ng kasalukuyang administrasyon. Iyung mga loan agreements po sa China, ngayong administrasyon po pinasok 'yan. Dapat kasama iyan sa rerepasuhin," Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes told radio DZMM.
(This should include the contracts entered into by the current administration. The loan agreements with China, it was approved this administration. It should be reviewed.)
The review is "long overdue", Reyes said, but questioned the timing of Duterte's directive.
"Dapat po sa unang taon pa lang e meron nang ginawang review. Iyung timing, tinatanong din natin bakit ngayon lang?" said the activist.
(The review should be done on the first year. With the timing, we are questioning why was it ordered only now? )
"Ito ba ay magreresulta talaga sa pagbabasura ng mga maanomalyang kontrata or ito na naman ba ay parang magiging diversion doon sa mga main issues na pinupukpok natin nitong mga nakaraang araw tulad ng mga maanomalyang kontrata sa Tsina?" he added.
(Will this really result to the junking of anomalous contracts or will this become a diversion to the main issues we are hammering these past days like the anomalous contract with China.)
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that Beijing could seize natural gas deposits in Reed Bank (Recto Bank) if Manila fails to pay the $62-million Chinese loan for the Chico River Irrigation Loan Agreement.
'SALA SA LAMIG, SALA SA INIT'
The review will include all government contracts, including those entered into by the Duterte administration, said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
He also criticized Reyes for criticizing the timing of the review, which comes about a month before May's midterm polls.
"Ang problema naman sa kanila, mga kritiko, sala sa lamig, sala sa init. 'Pag wala kaming ginawa, nangangantyaw sila... 'pag may ginawa ka naman, bakit ngayon lang," he said in a separate DZMM interview.
(The problem with them, the critics, is that they deem us guilty in cold, guilty in heat. If we do nothing, they mock us; if we do something, they'd say why just now.)
The review was prompted by a 1997 contract entered into by the government that allowed a water company to recover taxes by adjusting its fees, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said.
If the government discovers onerous provisions in these deals, they could either be re-negotiated or terminated, he said.
Domingo Yap, president of a business chamber of thousands of Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs, said he welcomed the announcement.
“There is nothing wrong with the government review. As a matter of fact, we want the government to be transparent. The president now is very strict. He wants no corruption. On our part, that is advantageous”, Yap said.
“We like the government to be transparent. But once we approve a deal after scrutiny and it is found to be free from corruption, the projects should be fast tracked.”
Robert Roces, chief economist at Security Bank in Manila, said the review should be a positive.
“Worst case is that this results in inefficiency if and when a sudden halt is ordered to projects already rolled out,” he said.
With a report from Reuters