In a virtual press briefing today, 01 September, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the Philippine government will allow all projects involving Chinese firms that are banned by the US to continue, these include the Sangley Point International Airport Project in Cavite City.
Lucio Tan’s MicroAsia and state-owned China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) bagged the Sangley Project in 2019. CCCC was among the companies identified by the US State Department which are involved in the illegal dredging and island-building activities in South China Sea.
“I will be categorical, Sangley Project will continue. All other projects involving Chinese companies that are banned in the US can continue in the Philippines. We are not a vassal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
US sanctions China
Last Aug. 26, in an unprecedented move by the Trump administration, the US announced that it is imposing sanctions on Chinese officials and Chinese firms involved in the illegal reclamation project and military build-up on South China Sea including portions of 200-NM Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to the US State Department, it had already identified an unspecified number of Chinese officials and business executives directly involved in the artificial-island building activities and militarization of South China Sea. Travel ban may also be imposed to their immediate family members, the US State Department added.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked that the travel ban would apply to Chinese individuals “responsible for, or complicit in, either, the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South Chine Sea, or (China’s) use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.”
It can be recalled that last month, in another pivotal turn for US foreign policy towards China, the US made a categorical announcement that it would not recognize nearly all of China’s maritime claims within its controversial nine-dash line that are also contested by other coastal states including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Pompeo also accused China of “bullying.”
China retaliates, fired missiles into South China Sea
The US’ recent pronouncements have elicited strong reaction from China. Last week, China launched a series of ballistic “carrier-killer” missiles into the South China Sea which impacted the northern reaches of the area between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands.
The Pentagon, in a statement, said that China’s drill is intended to “assert unlawful maritime claims” in South China Sea that disadvantaged neighboring countries.
Last 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has ruled that China’s nine-dash line has no legal basis under international law (PCA Case no. 2013-19), thus, practically nullifying China’s claims over the South China Sea. China, on the other hand, has asserted that it does not recognize the PCA’s ruling.
Roque contradicts Locsin
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement seemed to contradict the earlier statements made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who remarked, last Friday, that he would “strongly” recommend the termination of contracts between the Philippine government and companies involved in China’s artificial-island-building activities in the South China Sea (SCS).
“I’m not sure that any of those listed companies are among those that we ar directly dealing with… If I find that any of those companies are doing business with us, then I would strongly recommend we terminate that relationship with the company,” Secretary Locsin Jr. said in an interview with CNN Philippines.