Locsin backpedals, says Sangley project with US-blacklisted Chinese firm 'essential'

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2020 12:07 AM | Updated as of Sep 04 2020 12:44 AM

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. now agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to push through with infrastructure projects where US-blacklisted Chinese companies are involved. 

Last week, Locsin said in an interview with CNN Philippines that he would recommend the termination of contracts with Chinese companies involved in the construction of artificial islands and militarization of the West Philippine Sea if the country is doing business with them.

In a tweet on Thursday, however, Locsin said the United States’ decision to impose sanctions on Chinese companies and citizens that had a role in the militarization and what it said were illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea is “not binding on another country” but is a “suggestion.”

“There you go. Those projects are ongoing. Especially Sangley, which is essential. The US blacklist is not binding on another country. It is a suggestion. The last Chinese contract for an ongoing project we canceled, the North Rail, cost us millions of dollars in penalties,” he said.

The Cavite government earlier sought Duterte's guidance on whether or not to go ahead with building an airport with the help China Communications Construction Co (CCCC), which was among 24 companies that the US Commerce Department banned in August from purchasing US products for the construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.

A joint venture between the Chinese state-owned firm and Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp for the construction of the Sangley Point International Airport is “about to be completed,” according to Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla. 

CCCC also has 5 memoranda of agreement with the Philippine government, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who had said the Philippines should drop its infrastructure deals with Chinese companies that the US recently blacklisted.

However, Malacañang said that Chinese firms banned in the United States can continue doing business in the Philippines, as it greenlighted an airport project with a China-run corporation blacklisted by Washington.

The move highlights the independence of the Philippines, Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque claimed as he noted that Manila needs Chinese investors.