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Tuesday, September 17, 2019
PAMPANGA

Pangan: Falling into a debt trap

At Close Range

OUR country’s Finance Secretary is so sure when he declared that there is no danger of us being drowned in Chinese debt.

Oh really? The current administration's ambitious P trillion infrastructure buildup program would point to make the Philippines so vulnerable to a debt trap “that would undermine the country's economy and sovereignty.”

With the so huge amounts needed for the program, would there ever be a chance for the country to repay the huge loans albeit with low interests?

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III assures that in case of default in the payments of the massive loans from China, no Philippine assets will be seized by the creditor-nation.

He is so self-assured that the Philippines would never falter in its loan payments but will he stay as Department of Finance Secretary forever? At the end of President's term, he may not be around to account.

Incisive columnist Jarius Bondoc has another take on this issue: The issue is not whether the loans are small-$273 million or P14.5 billion. It's about the government's waiver of immunity and natural resources.

It's right and timely that Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and nationalist Neri Colmenares warn of the dire consequences of the contracted loans with China.

Justice Carpio warns that in case of Philippine default in the P3.3 billion Chico River Pump Irrigation project, China can grab the oil-and-gas-rich Recto Bank on the West Philippine Sea.

For his part, Colmenares points to Article 8 of the Loan Agreement with China for the P11.2 billion loan for the Kaliwa Dam in Rizal where there is no limit to what China can take from us.

Bondoc writes apprehensively so: What if the Big One strikes, the West Valley Fault quakes, Metro Manila is devastated and would need 50 years to recover, as experts forecast? Would that not trigger default of even wee debts and China taking advantage.

Of course, our national authorities would immediately brush off our fears and say these are purely based on false apprehension. They should know the consequences or face full accountability to the people. And what about the tribal folks, like the Dumagats, who face sure eviction? Is their future and posterity included in the calculation?


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