PH to review loan deals with China after Pence's warning, says Finance chief

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2018 04:07 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2018 05:48 PM

MANILA -- The Philippine government will again review the loan agreement it plans to sign under China's Belt and Road initiative, following a warning issued by US Vice President Mike Pence.

But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said, based on the government’s first review of the agreement, it appears to be favorable for both parties.

“We have reviewed the Belt and Road agreement and quite frankly, I don't think it's opaque. It's quite clear to me that this is a win-win-win situation for everybody. And as to compromising sovereignty, I don't see how that can be,” Dominguez said.

“But again with those remarks, we will certainly review it again,” added the Finance chief, who was among the delegates at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Papua New Guinea. 

The annual APEC gathering was overshadowed by speeches on Saturday from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pence, which tackled Beijing's offer of loans to poorer countries for construction and development projects.

Pence alleged that the loans come with strings attached and build up "staggering debt" for poorer countries. Xi, however, insisted the initiative was not a "trap" and there was no "hidden agenda."

Manila will sign a memorandum of understanding with China on its Belt and Road Initiative when Xi visits the Philippines this month.

Dominguez, who has been designated secretary-in-attendance for Xi’s visit, said several agreements will be signed during the state visit, mostly on funding for infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

“The DOF is also going to sign an agreement with Bank of China for the launching of our second RMB sometime in the first or second quarter of next year,” he added. 

Dominguez said an agreement on Philippine-China oil exploration is also being considered for signing. The administration, he said, is preparing “very hard” for President Xi’s visit.

“His visit is quite significant because it is a 'return visit' to the state visit of the President two years ago, where President Duterte very wisely turned the foreign policy of the Philippines towards ASEAN and Asia, particularly to China,” Dominguez said.