President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, July 17, led the groundbreaking ceremony of two China-funded bridges with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and other officials in Intramuros, Manila.

The projects cost over P5 billion, but the country is not expected to spend on having the bridges built as the grants are coming from China.

The first bridge will connect Binondo and Intramuros in Manila, while the other one will connect Makati and Mandaluyong cities — both of which are expected to decongest existing bridges that are already traversing the same route and help spur economic activity.

Seeing as these are just two of the many projects that the Philippines has with China, some are raising their concerns about the Philippines falling into a debt trap with China.

Duterte, in his speech, said China has never asked for any piece of real estate in the Philippines in exchange for financial assistance.

“I’d just like to tell everybody that in all of these discussions, China did not ask [for] any, even one square of real estate in this country,” he said.

Jianhua also assuaged fears, saying “China’s grants does not have any strings attached to them. And China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into a debt trap.”

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, meanwhile, said, “We are aware that excessive debt especially for projects that are not economically viable are very bad. All our projects, especially our projects with China, are all economically viable.”

Duterte then talked about how China cares about its position in geopolitics. He also mentioned the historic international arbitral ruling which invalidated Beijing’s claim to the West Philippine Sea.

“Its geopolitics position is something that is critical to China and the stand which we disagreed [on] as we filed the arbitration case…. We have promised to deal with the problem from the President himself of the People’s Republic of China that we will discuss this at some other time as China has to deal individually [with] bilateral relations and issues,” he said.

Duterte also spoke of a “blueprint” of plans with China, though he did not divulge any specificities. However, the blueprint apparently allows Beijing to determine how benefits would be distributed to the Philippines.

“We will allow them (China) the sufficient period to sort out things and I am sure [in] the end China will be fair and the equity will be distributed… We would realize that China, after all, is really a good neighbor,” Duterte said.

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