Recto cautions Duterte vs $500-M arms loan from China

MANILA, Philippines – There is no need to borrow money from China to modernize the Philippine military.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday, May 16, cautioned President Rodrigo Duterte against borrowing $500 million from the Chinese government to buy weapons from Poly Technologies Incorporated, one of the top state-owned defense manufacturing and exporting firms in China.

Recto said it is cheaper to produce and maintain military equipment locally than to import them.

"We must stop relying on foreign suppliers to modernize the military equipment of our armed forces. There is no need to borrow from China. It is cheaper to produce and maintain them locally, than to import them," Recto said in a statement.

"That way, jobs are created for the Filipinos and the local industries are given the chance to grow," he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier revealed the Philippine government was set to sign a letter of intent to purchase defense assets from Poly Technologies.

Vibrant local industry

Recto further cited the "vibrant" local firearms industry, saying it has been exporting its products for many decades now.

There are many local companies – from boat builders, vehicle manufacturers, to firearm/ammunition makers – that can accommodate the needs of the government and the military, he added.

"Some of them were licensees of the world's leading gun makers. We should not bypass local industries which can provide parts or whole of the defense equipment being sought," Recto said.

"Hindi naman puwede na mula helmet hanggang boots imported (We can't import everything, from helmets to boots). If some of the things can be made locally and the products are of the same price and quality as the ones bought abroad, then let us manufacture them here. Buy local, create jobs. This should be the new mantra of the government," the senator added.

Aside from the the purchase of defense assets, the Duterte administration also plans to obtain huge loans from China to fund the President's ambitious infrastructure program. Communist leader Jose Maria Sison had earlier urged the government to rethink this strategy as it could turn the Philippines into a "debt slave" of the Asian economic power. (READ: Joma wary Chinese loans might trap PH to give up West PH Sea)

An analyst from Forbes magazine had also raised questions about the Philippines' loans from China under the Duterte administration, saying these will "put the Philippines into virtual debt bondage if allowed to proceed."

Duterte, for his part, said he believed that China is "sincere" in its commitment to the Philippines.

The two countries are embroiled in a dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). An arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, invalidating China's sweeping 9-dash line. – Rappler.com