Poe: Release 'made in China' loan contracts in full for public scrutiny

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Reelectionist senator Grace Poe on Tuesday, April 2, said the "made in China" loan contracts should be vetted and be released for public scrutiny.

In a statement, Poe welcomed the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to review all government contracts with private firms and remove onerous provisions.

Poe said this should apply to loan agreements with China as well, in cases where provisions are "one-sided," as warned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and senatorial bet Neri Colmenares.

"Made in China contracts should be vetted for onerous and one-sided provisions. For the results to be impartial, those who negotiated the contracts should have no role in reviewing them," Poe said.

"We can begin the review process by releasing in full the loan agreements, including annexes and minutes of the meeting of the reviewing and approving bodies," she added.

In late March, the Department of Finance released on its website the loan agreements on 9 projects with China.

Poe also raised the question of whether there is a need for these projects. To date, known contentious provisions in case of a default are in the $186-million Chico River irrigation project and the $211-million Kaliwa Dam. (READ: Made in China: Loan terms with waivers, shrouded in secrecy)

"[W]e can’t sweep due diligence and the laws of the land under the red carpet that government has rolled out for them. Loans must be legally compliant and must meet the good governance test," Poe said.

The reelectionist senator also warned of a "debt trap" that future generations will have to bear.

"Above all, it must bear repayment terms that is the best we can get…This nation can't survive if it's saddled with loans, that mortgage the future of our children and offers part of national patrimony as collateral," she said.

Carpio earlier raised the alarm over the Chico River project, saying that the Philippines "does not stand a chance" in winning the arbitration case in case of a default.

Carpio said waiving our sovereign immunity over patrimonial assets, or assets dedicated for commercial use, would allow China to take gas-rich Reed Bank (Recto Bank). He also said the China-funded Kaliwa Dam has similar provisions with the Chico River project.

Philippine economic managers had shrugged off the idea of a debt trap with China. 

On Tuesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III claimed that those who believe that the country will fall into a debt trap with China "have no faith" in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.