De Lima calls for Senate probe on Chinese investment deals

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Sen. Leila M. de Lima today pushed for an immediate Senate investigation into the several investment projects worth of billions of dollars, including business-to-business and public financing agreements, signed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s three-day state visit to China last October.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 222 directing the appropriate Senate Committees to investigate at least 17 investment deals in strict compliance with the Constitutional provision requiring “full public disclosure of all (its) transactions involving public interest.”

“It has been our nation’s unfortunate and oft-repeated experience that questionable contracts are only discovered after public funds have already been expended, and the public interest has already been compromised,” she said.

The former justice secretary recalled two separate investigations conducted by World Bank (WB) in 2009 and 2011 which found at least seven Chinese firms and one individual to have engaged in “collusive scheme designed to establish bid prices at artificial, non-competitive levels.”

Some of these Chinese firms and their subsidiaries have been debarred from bidding or were found to be ineligible to engage on future WB-financial contracts until 2017, she noted.

“Given the transcendental importance of avoiding the damage that anomalous contracts can inflict on our nation and our people, there is a need to inquire into the important issues involved in such deals, agreements, arrangements or contracts,” she said.

De Lima, however, underscored that her proposed Senate investigation is not meant to block economic expansion efforts of the present administration, but simply clarify and possibly refine these agreements as to not circumvent any law or jurisprudence.

“The resolution is not meant to stop efforts to pump prime the economy through infrastructure development, but put things in black and white, including any liabilities that the country will incur, and how these setbacks will be resolved,” she explained.

De Lima also pointed out the possibility of circumventing the 2003 Government Procurement Reform Act through these deals or agreements, resulting to “tied loans” to evade the requirements of public biddings as mandated by law.

She cited the highly anomalous NBB-ZTE broadband project and the Northrail-CNMEG railway project that the Arroyo administration had entered that both have resulted in a protracted legal battle by both parties and were later rescinded.

“Past attempts to obtain judicial remedy against similar, apparently questionable contracts have either failed or have been only marginally successful in providing partial relief,” she said.

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