By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
Since assuming office, President Duterte has been vocal in favoring China. Before his China state visit in October, 2016, he publicly told Xinhua (China’s state newspaper): “It’s only China that can help us.” And, among other countries including the United States, he stressed “I just want to talk to China.”
By April, 2018, President Duterte professed: “ I just simply love Xi Jinping” and that “more than anybody else at this time of our national life, I need China.” And in November, 2018, during official welcome in Malacañang, inadvertently or intentionally, the two leaders walked only with China’s red flag at their back. The Philippine Presidential Standard was conspicuously missing. Many people wonder if this was a sign of over-hospitality, kiss-arse, fear, inferiority, or simply subservience?
Concurrently, no strong assertion of our country’s legal rights in the West Philippine Sea has been made. The reported Chinese anti-cruise and surface-to-air missiles installed in three of the Spratly Islands were not subjected to strong international protest. Meanwhile, about 3,120,000 Chinese have reportedly entered the Philippines since January, 2016 — many, including those without work permit, endangering our own work force.
Finally, the latest development this November, 2018, was the 29 agreements entered or at least the subject of future arrangements with China. This over-zealousness to get China’s billions of dollars, even by way of a loan, may end up economically and territorially short-ending the Philippines. Some indispensable points to be vigilant about are as follows:
1.) The constitution provides that all natural resources of the Philippines shall be under the sole supervision and control of the Philippines. Joint agreements for supervision and control with China will be illegal;
2.) The state may enter into co-production, joint ventures, and production-sharing agreements (concerning our natural resources) only with Filipinos and Ccorporations 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos. Entering into such agreements with China as a sovereign country or a Chinese company will be illegal.
3.) The period of any allowable agreement is 25 years and renewable for another 25 years, under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. The law is legislated by Congress. Thus both Senate and the House of Representatives must look into the agreements. Any period beyond those stated will be illegal.
4.) The President’s authority to enter into agreement with foreign corporations is limited only to either technical or financial assistance, nothing more. Joint exploration with a foreign corporation, much more a foreign country, will be illegal.
5.) Such technical agreement or financial assistance must be based on real contribution to economic growth and the general welfare of the country. Financial loans from China with high interest rates and onerous conditions are not for the general welfare of the country and will unduly burden the Philippine treasury and therefore they will be illegal.
6.) The technical and financial assistance must be subject to the general terms and conditions as may be provided by law. Congress must enact the necessary laws. The agreements are not self-executory. If the executive department implements the agreements against the law as may be provided by Congress, such implementation will be illegal.
The illegality is based on the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act forbidding entry into contracts grossly disadvantageous to the Philippines. Contracts against the constitution fall within these prohibited agreements.
Another danger is if China will demand and the Philippines will concede that, in all contracts, the legal tender will be China’s yuan or renminbi. If that happens, the Marawi reconstruction reportedly awarded to China, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, workers, and the Philippine government will create a busy marketplace propelled by Chinese money, replicable in other localities where China will be granted projects. The Philippine peso might vanish in that place. Worse, what if it will also be stipulated that all money will be deposited in and withdrawn from a branch of a Chinese bank established in the city?
For accountability, not only should the 29 agreements be published or made known to the public, all the Philippine negotiators responsible for the agreements must be made known. A list of their names and which contracts they negotiated must be published.
With all the declarations placating China and all the contracts worth billions of pesos that may be awarded to it, one wonders how much joke or truth, subliminal at least, was in President Duterte’s mind-set when he remarked, “Kung gusto nyo, gawin nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian.”