De Lima seeks Senate inquiry into loan agreements under ‘Build, Build, Build’ program

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for an inquiry into the complete terms and conditions of the loans entered into under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program to assess their impact on our economy and national security.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 628 urging the appropriate Senate committee to look into the centerpiece of the Duterte administration’s infrastructure program which has been allocated with PhP8.2 trillion for its six-year term.

“Congress, as representatives of our people, must be involved, via its oversight functions, in the negotiation of the loan agreements to ensure that the terms provided in the said agreements are fair and in keeping with our country’s ability to utilize the proceeds and pay said loans,” she said.

“It is incumbent upon Congress to scrutinize all loan agreements of this magnitude entered into by the government to protect our country from onerous and odious provisions that could jeopardize our country’s future, both in terms of financial as well as territorial security,” she said.

The Duterte administration has reportedly allocated some PhP8.2 trillion to fund what it called “the golden age of infrastructure” under the “Build, Build, Build” program over the next six years.

The National Economic Development Authority claimed that 15 percent of the funds shall be sourced from foreign borrowing. However, De Lima noted that of the 75 flagships it has approved, 48 percent of its funds shall be borrowed from foreign lenders.

The Senator from Bicol expressed concern over the administration’s lack of transparency over the terms of Chinese loans to fund the infrastructure program, noting that lenders, including China, pay around 2-7 percent finders’ fee for each agreement.

“Such incentives could shape public policy and encourage more loan agreements than necessary, especially if such fee is paid as kickbacks to government officials who pushed for and brokered said deals at the expense of the Filipino who will be paying for the loans in the following years, if not decades,” she said.

De Lima also took issue on the loans offered by China which she claimed would have an impact on the Philippines’ foreign policy, including the country’s stakes in the contested islands in the South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea.

“Tying the Philippines to huge monetary indebtedness to China will also have an undeniable impact on the conduct of our foreign relations, and most certainly will be used by China as a leverage against us in its continuing effort to undermine our claims,” she said.

In May 2017, De Lima has filed a similar resolution, logged as Senate Resolution No. 377, which also seeks to look into the loan agreements with China that may either put the country in dire debt or force the country into commitments that might undermine its sovereignty.

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