PH won't fall into China's debt trap, DFA chief says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines will not fall into China's "debt trap" in the wake of partnerships with infrastructure projects.

"How can you have a debt trap if one percent lang ng debt mo is to that country? The best insurance I guess is also transparency, na bawat isang debt lumabas para alam niyo na [that every debt is revealed] despite one percent, every peso is accounted for," Cayetano told reporters Tuesday.

In May, Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the administration is cautious with economic deals with Beijing.

READ: Government to 'make haste slowly' in deals with China

A number of projects in the "Build, Build, Build" program such as the Mindanao Railway Project will be funded by China. In April, President Rodrigo Duterte said Beijing is important to the P9-trillion infrastructure program, even as Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua had earlier said these projects have "no strings attached" to them.

READ: Duterte: China an 'important ingredient' in 'Build, Build, Build' program

A Harvard University study identified countries vulnerable to China's "debtbook diplomacy," whereby Beijing reportedly influences nations through debts. These include Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Cayetano said he is looking forward to have the framework for the joint exploration agreement between Philippines and China in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

"I'd like to see a framework agreement in the next few months. Kung kaya [If possible], next two or three months. I'd like to see one but it depends sa pag-uusap [on the discusssion]," he said.

READ: DFA chief: Duterte approves working group for PH-China oil exploration