Supreme Court asks gov’t to respond to petition vs China loan deal

Arianne Merez and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2019 04:18 PM

Malacañang confident China loan deal will pass SC scrutiny

Supreme Court asks gov’t to respond to petition vs China loan deal 1
FILE PHOTO: Chico River in Bontoc, November 25, 2017. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the government to respond to a petition challenging the legality of the $62-million loan from China to fund the construction of the Chico River Dam.

The top court required the Office of the President and several other offices to comment on a petition filed by opposition lawmakers against the loan agreement, SC Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said.

Malacañang said it would respond to the petition, confident that the loan agreement would pass the high tribunal’s scrutiny.

“The loan agreement has passed through many channels and there has been many review, evaluations. We feel that it’s not in violation of the Constitution as alleged by the petitioner,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters during a Palace press briefing.

Petitioners have argued that 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.

In ordering the government to respond, the Supreme Court "recognizes the gravity of the issues we raised," said one of the petitioners, Makabayan bloc Chairman Neri Colmenares.

"We urge the respondents to immediately comply with the court's ruling given the far-reaching implications of this and other loan agreements on our people," he said in a statement.

Concerns have been raised over the Chico River deal after 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 project.

Government officials however maintained the loan agreement was not a debt trap, noting that Manila has also never defaulted on any loan agreement so the possibility of Beijing taking its assets "will never happen.”