BEIJING―The first projects that will take off as part of the Chinese development package to help the Philippines are the simpler ones that will be built for free to ensure they will be transparent and corruption-free, an official said here Thursday.
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana was responding to the question how to avert the recurrence of shady Chinese dealings with the Philippine government.
“The challenge here is how to do it and avoid the problems we’ve had in the past,” Sta. Romana said.
He also said President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a new independent foreign policy cut the Philippines’ dependence on the United States and made it more friendly with China while also boosting relations with Russia.
“We try to separate our foreign policy at least from the US,” Sta. Romana said.
But he said that did not mean abandoning the Philippines’ military alliance with the US.
Sta. Romana said the economic team composed of Social Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and the Department of Trade and Industry had not actually signed a single contract with the Chinese government about the promised development projects in the Philippines.
He said they were still trying to introduce a system of accreditation, and that the challenge was how to minimize the potential for a repeat of what happened in the past.
“We want to avoid that of course,” he said.
“And there is a need to make it transparent, how to make sure that the terms are acceptable and won’t be something that will be a burden to future generations. Basically, it has to be in accordance with Philippine laws.”
The projects being given for free by China to the Philippines include the two bridges in Pasig, where the groundbreaking will be in the second half of this year.
Three other projects are the Chico River irrigation project, a dam and the South rail.
Several high-ranking government officials, including former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo, had been involved in the controversial $329-million NBN-ZTE deal, but the Arroyos have been then cleared of the charges in connection with the deal.