MANILA - Lawmakers on Sunday backed the proposal of the country's top diplomat to terminate projects of Chinese firms involved in West Philippine Sea reclamation projects.
The move is similar to the US' imposition of sanctions and restrictions last week on 24 state-owned Chinese companies for taking part in building artificial islands in the disputed waters.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, in separate statements, expressed support for Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr's recommendation.
"This move should also include the Chinese companies involved in onerous deals like the Kaliwa Dam and Chico Dam projects, which will only bury the country to a debt quicksand," Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares added.
Left-leaning groups have questioned the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon as it would displace thousands of indigenous people.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, assured the public that government would pay and relocate individuals who would be displaced by the project.
The legality of the Chico Dam project, a $62-million loan from China, has been questioned before the Supreme Court as it may allegedly cause the seizure of Philippine assets in the South China Sea if Manila reneged on payment for the project.
Sen. Imee Marcos, meantime, opposed penalizing Chinese firms, saying that even Duterte admitted he was "inutile" against aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
“Bakit naman tayo magtatapang-tapangan kung wala naman tayong ibubuga. Mahirap naman kung hindi mo puwedeng pangatawanan,” she said in an online forum.
(Why would we act tough when we have no power? It's hard to do if we can't commit.)
“There is no strategic consensus (among government agencies) on what should be done in the South China Sea. Walang kaplano-plano. Ano ba naman tayo, kalaki ng bunganga, hindi naman pala nagkakaisa. So it’s very important to get our acts together kung anong magagawa."
(We have no plans. We're all talk but we're not united. So it’s very important to get our acts together on what can be done.)
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, where it reclaimed disputed features and fortified those with military installations, has been invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.
China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the international waterway believed to be rich not only of marine resources but also of gas and mineral.
--With reports from Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News