Vice President Leni Rodredo on Sunday said it is “too early” to worry about the country’s multi-billion peso loan agreements with China as the terms of the deals have yet to be released.
“As far as the Philippines is concerned, I think it would be jumping several steps ahead if we say that the terms are onerous or are not favorable to us,” Robredo told reporters in Hong Kong, where she attended an event for her “Istorya ng Pag-asa” project.
“It’s too early to say because we are not fully aware yet what the terms of the loan agreements are. If the basis would be the experiences of some other countries like Sri Lanka, then we should be wary,” she said.
Sri Lanka in December 2017 handed over its Hambantota port to China for failing to pay decades-long lease.
Some have raised fear of such scenario, or the so-called China debt trap, amid the administration’s stronger ties with China. Both Philippine and China government officials had dismissed the concern.
On top of China’s support to the Philippines, the government in April last year signed six loan agreements with the East Asian giant to fund some projects under the massive infrastructure program.
According to Robredo, the government should be transparent on the terms of the deals to avoid fear among Filipinos.
“You know, the Philippines incurs debts not just from China, but from other foreign countries as well. I think what is important is government is transparent as far as the terms of the debt are,” she said.
“Our demand is just for transparency, so that we can comment accordingly. You know, it is very difficult to comment on some things if we do not know exactly what the terms of the agreements are.”
The Vice President, however, has a different opinion on the influx of Chinese workers in the country.
While “everyone has a chance to work in the Philippines,” the Vice President said the increasing number of Chinese workers “is a cause of worry.”
“Our own laws state that if there are jobs that no Filipino can qualify to, then we can take in foreign workers. But the cause for concern is if having foreign workers take away jobs from Filipinos.,” she said.
“We have a high unemployment rate, and it doesn’t seem right that jobs meant for Filipinos will be, you know, will be given to non-Filipinos,” she added.
Robredo also questioned the legality of the Chinese workers’ stay in the Philippines.
“I think from last year, we saw an influx of foreign workers, and we are not really sure if all of them are, you know, are legally allowed to work in the Philippines,” she said.