'No danger' of debt trap for Philippines, says Chinese envoy

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2018 12:49 PM

China's President Xi Jinping waves to the crowd upon his arrival at Ninoy Aquino International airport during a state visit in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2018. Erik De Castro, Reuters/File

MANILA -- The Philippines is in "no danger" of falling into a debt trap with China's assistance in its "Build, Build, Build" program, a Chinese diplomat told a business forum on Monday.

On top of infrastructure aid, closer ties between the 2 countries also spurred tourism with Chinese tourist arrivals expected to exceed 1.5 million this year, said Tan Qingsheng, Charges d'Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

Tan said he "cannot understand the logic" of media reports warning of a debt trap. "Those projects are proposed by the Philippine side, are economically viable and are positive for the Philippine economy," he said.

"There is no danger of a so-called debt trap." he said.

There is no "conspiracy to bankrupt host countries and seize assets," said John Gong, an economics professor of at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a 2-day state visit to the Philippines last week, during which he and President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing of 29 agreements, including a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas cooperation.

Manila and Beijing agreed last August to fast-track infrastructure cooperation. Two bridges that cross the Pasig River in the capital are targeted for completion in 2021. A dam in Infanta, Quezon will also be built.

China is expected to nominate 3 contractors for the Subic-Clark railway and an agreement is expected to be signed towards the end of the year or in early 2019, the Department of Transportation said.

Tan said the South China Sea "is not the sum total of China-Philippine relations."

Duterte has refused to flaunt Manila's victory in a UN-backed international court, which invalidated China's vast claims to the resource-rich waterway.

The President, instead, sought to reset ties that were strained by the dispute and the arbitration case initiated by his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III.