Duterte opens Chinese-donated Bukidnon drug rehab center

NEW REHAB CENTER. President Rodrigo Duterte and Jose Kho (right, in grey suit) unveil the marker for the Northern Mindanao Wellness and Reintegration Center.

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MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte inaugurated a P500-million drug rehabilitation center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, a donation from a group of Chinese businessmen.

Duterte unveiled the marker for the 5-hectare facility in Barangay Casisang on Friday, August 3, in the presence of Jose Kho, a Chinese businessman who chairs the Friends of the Philippines Foundation.

Also present was Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, local officials, and Department of Health officials.

According to a press release, the facility, dubbed the Northern Mindanao Wellness and Reintegration Center, was also built with the help of Kinming Real Estate Co Ltd.

The new facility, the largest of its kind in Mindanao, is designed to accomodate 500 to 800 drug dependents at any time.

It is outfitted with 3 resident dormitories, sports facilities like basketball courts and gymnasiums, mini-ampitheater, aside from the medical facilities and administration building.

The center is expected to be completed in the 3rd quarter of this year.

The Friends of the Philippines Foundation presented blueprints of the drug rehabilitation center during a lunch with Duterte in Beijing during his first official visit to China in October 2016.

Kho is associated with Chinese-Filipino Kitson Soriano Kho, chairman of Hong Kong-based The Kho Group and executive director of UAA Kinming Development Corporation.

The two Khos have visited Duterte twice in Malacañang.

Kitson Soriano Kho’s company is gunning for a massive reclamation project in Manila Bay with Chinese partners – the 407-hectare New Manila International Community, a smart “city within a city” that got the nod of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

Duterte has frequently declared in public speeches that he leaves discussions on private-led projects like reclamation to his Cabinet members.

"No business transactions ever reach my desk," he has said. 

Before Kho, another Chinese tycoon donated a drug rehabilitation facility to the Duterte administration. Real estate businessman Huang Rulun donated P1.4 billion to put up two drug rehabilitation centers in Nueva Ecija with a holding capacity of 10,000 patients.

Rulun was reportedly investigated by the Chinese government for alleged bribery. Huang's company, Century Golden Resources Group, has been tagged by Chinese state media as a source of bribes paid to Bai Enpai, the party secretary of Yunnan province, in connection with a corruption case, according to a Financial Times report.

Duterte distanced himself from the probe. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.