Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won't be copying the United States' move to blacklist or sanction Chinese companies engaged in illegal island-building in the South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Duterte's position on Tuesday, September 1, during a virtual press briefing.
"The President declared last night that the Americans can blacklist Chinese companies in their territories in America and maybe in their military bases under their jurisdiction. But what the President said was clear: He will not follow the directives of Americans because we are a free and independent nation and we need those investments from China," said Roque in a mix of English and Filipino.
"We are not a vassal state of any foreign power," the Duterte spokesman added.
Thus, the P500-billion Sangley international airport project involving China Airport Construction Corporation (CACC) will push through.
CACC is a subsidiary of Construction & Communications Corporation (CCCC), one of China's largest state-run infrastructure firms which was reported to have been involved in China's reclamation of maritime features in the South China Sea and its construction of military bases on features within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
"So Sangley [project] and all other projects, regardless of which Chinese contractor is involved, will continue because the national interest is to ensure the flagship projects under Build, Build, Build will be finished," said Roque.
CCCC's operations were also shown to have led to massive environmental damage in some of the world's richest fishing grounds.
This is yet another instance when Duterte clashed with his own foreign secretary, Teodoro "Teddboy" Locsin Jr, on a matter of foreign policy.
It was Locsin who strongly recommended to Duterte that the Philippines cancel contracts with blacklisted Chinese firms as a way for the country to strengthen its opposition to China's encroachments in the West Philippine Sea.
“If I find that any of those companies are doing business with us, then I would strongly recommend that we terminate the relationship with that company,” Locsin said last August 28, in a CNN Philippines interview.
Locsin said terminating such contracts would be "consistent" with the Philippines' condemnation of the illegal reclamation activities these Chinese firms are engaged in.
Duterte's go-signal now clears the way for the continuation of construction of the international airport in Sangley, Cavite.
Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla had previously said he would cancel the contract his provincial government had awarded to CACC and Lucio Tan's MacroAsia Corp if told by the national government that the deal posed a risk to nation security.
Remulla, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, said that allowing the Sangley project to push through should not be taken by Filipinos as a compromise on the country's position on China encroachments in the West Philippine Sea.
"While we need to be nationalistic, we also need to be pragmatic," he said. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.