Philippines in ‘no danger’ of Beijing’s debt trap, says envoy
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Philippines in ‘no danger’ of Beijing’s debt trap, says envoy

A CHINESE diplomat on Monday assured the Philippines that it was in “no danger” of falling into a debt trap amid a string of investments that came after Chinese president Xi Jinping’s official to the country last week.

During a business forum, Tan Qingsheng, Charges d’Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Manila, said apart from infrastructure aid, closer Beijing-Manila ties could spur Chinese tourism in the country, with more than 1.5 million Chinese tourists expected to visit the Southeast Asian country this year.

According to ABS-CBN, Tan said he “cannot understand the logic” of media reports that warned of a potential debt trap.

“Those projects are proposed by the Philippine side, are economically viable and are positive for the Philippine economy,” he was quoted as saying.

“There is no danger of a so-called debt trap.”

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John Gong, an economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said China was not in a conspiracy to “bankrupt host countries and seize assets”.

Last week, Xi came to Manila on a two-day visit during which he and Philippines president oversaw the signing of 29 agreements on a host of sectors, including the oil and gas industry.

Xi also pledged to further strategic gains made under Duterte, who hailed a “new impetus” behind a relationship that his massive infrastructure ambitions could depend on.

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Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to the media as he walks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before their bilateral meeting at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Nov 20, 2018. Source: Reuters

Xi’s visit comes two years after Duterte earlier indicated he was shifting his foreign policy away from the United States and towards China, despite disputes with Beijing over territories in the South ChinaSeaa.

Duterte’s opponents say the president has been making too many political consessions to China in return for billions of dollars pledged for Chinese loans and investment that have yet to come into fruition, or have any formal committements.

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According to Reuters, Duterte said there was “a deepening trust and confidence” between them and he and Xi had discussed increasing trade and investment, and China’s involvement in his signature US$180 billion “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure programme.

“With mutual respect, sincerity and adherence to sovereign equality, I will continue to work closely with President Xi,” he said.

However, of the 38 Philippine projects earmarked for Chinese involvement two years ago, only four were among the commitments made last week.

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