PHL won’t fall into debt trap: Chinese envoy assures

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua assured Tuesday that the Philippines would not fall into a “debt trap” even after it took Chinese loans to bolster the Duterte administration’s ‘Build Build Build’ infrastructure program.

Zhao made this remark as President Rodrigo Duterte led the groundbreaking ceremony of two bridge projects to be funded by Chinese grant.

“China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap,” Zhao said in his speech during the event held at Intramuros, Manila.

“Because under the wise leadership of President Duterte and economic management team headed by Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez, they are smart enough not to allow the Philippines to fall into the so-called debt trap,” he added.

Zhao said even the two bridge projects to be constructed for free by China along Pasig River “do not have any string attached”.

Under the “new era” of China-Philippines relations, Zhao said China will make sure its funded projects will benefit the Filipino people.

“China will honor this commitment to make sure those projects will benefit the Filipino people, will not have any negative impact on the socio-economic development of the Philippines,” he said.

The two projects to be funded by Chinese grant included the 734-meter Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the 506.46-meter Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge in Mandaluyong.

“We’ll do our utmost to prove that President Duterte’s independent foreign policy, particularly friendly-cooperative policy towards China will produce more tangible benefits to the people of the Philippines,” Zhao said.

Zhao said China is also “positively considering” soft loans for five more bridge projects along Pasig River.

Dominguez agreed that the Philippines will not fall into debt trap since all projects, especially those set to be funded by China, “are all economically viable”.

He was referring to the Chico River Pump Irrigation project, which China funded along with Kaliwa Dam and railway projects, particularly between Manila and Bicol.

“The railway project between Manila and Bicol is something that will help the Bicol region. So there is no danger of a debt trap. It will help the economy. All these projects are going to be positive for the economy,” Dominguez said in a media interview.

When asked why China funded the two bridges for free, Dominguez replied: “I think because, they think that a better Philippines will be better for the entire Asia and I think it’s true”.

According to the Department of Public Works and Highways, the cost of the two bridge projects is around PHP5.27 billion. PNA