(UPDATED — 6:10 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima claims that an alleged “unholy alliance” exists between President Rodrigo Duterte and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that has something to do with China.
“Clearly, Duterte still has use for Arroyo, and Arroyo for Duterte, beyond their common hatred for the Aquino Administration and myself, for my investigation of then Mayor Duterte and his death squad and the arrest of Arroyo after her foiled escape attempt in 2011. More than this common interest for vengeance against me, there is a deeper anchorage for this unholy alliance between Duterte and Arroyo, and it all points to China,” De Lima said in a statement issued Wednesday, Nov. 15, as the Philippines ended its yearlong hosting of the Asean Summit and related summits.
According to De Lima, the Duterte administration “is already…tying up Filipinos to a future of financial indebtedness to China for infrastructure loans, while Arroyo drumbeats China’s hegemonic role not only in the Philippines, but in the whole world.”
Despite the two countries’ continuing dispute over the West Philippine Sea, Duterte expressed his intention to expand and deepen the Philippines’ economic ties with China.
On Tuesday, the Department of Finance announced that China had pledged an estimated $7.34 billion in loans and grants to the Philippines for the implementation of the latter’s flagship infrastructure projects and other priority programs.
These would include the $234.92-million Kaliwa-New Centennial Water Source in Quezon province; the $72.49-million Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in North Luzon; the $2.91 billion Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Railway project; the $947.64 million for the Subic-Clark Railway; and $424.81 million for the Davao City Expressway.
Also on Tuesday, during the Asean Business and Investment Summit, Arroyo praised China and said that, “Today, we see China is not a business competitor. It’s a collaborator, a donor and a market.”
The senator said that just like Duterte, Arroyo, during her administration, also allegedly wanted the Philippines to be at the mercy of China supposedly in exchange for personal gain.
“We all know what happened with Chinese infrastructure projects during Arroyo’s time. We only have to recall the NBN-ZTE scandal and the Manila-Clark railway fiasco,” said De Lima.
Following allegations of corruption that was linked to her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, the former President cancelled in 2007 the Philippine government’s $329-million National Broadband Network project with China’s Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Company.
The 80-kilometer NorthRail project that would link Caloocan with Clark in Pampanga, was contracted out by the Arroyo administration in 2003 to the China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation (CNMEC).
The original contract cost for the flagship project was $421 million, which was partly funded by the Philippine government’s $400-million loan from China’s Exim Bank.
In 2009, CNMEC increased the contract price to $593 million, with the Philippine government agreeing to shoulder the cost of the difference. But the project was scrapped in 2011, during the Aquino administration, amid allegations of corruption.
“The unholy team-up seems bent on mortgaging the Filipino nation and its future generations to China, for a commission of course, if the past is to be any indication,” she added.
The lawmaker urged Filipinos to “guard against the resurrection of Arroyo’s dead China deals, re-packaged as Duterte’s “build-build-build” projects, if only for the record of plunder and corruption that characterized them during the Arroyo presidency.”
“Loaning our future to China, as avidly endorsed by Duterte and Arroyo, is not the way forward. It is the path to national suicide,” De Lima said.