Senate ‘blocks’ payment for China-funded project

Credit to Author: jespinosa| Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2019 03:48:56 +0000

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has approved a “block payment” provision on the China-funded Safe Philippines Project.

In the Senate version of the 2019 national budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the provision “distinctly names one project only— the Chinese-offered ‘Safe Philippines Project.’”

The P20-billion project includes the installation of 12,000 closed-circuit television cameras in Metro Manila and Davao City.

But Recto has long questioned the project that he even sought a Senate probe on it, citing possible potential risks to national security or public interest.


READ: Recto calls for probe on China-assisted ‘Safe Philippines Project’

The senator claimed that the vetting and approval of the project has all the hallmarks of a behest transaction, “lacking in studies, consultations, validation.”

“We have asked for documents from the lead appraisal authority, the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), and they cannot provide us any,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Manipis na, minadali pa. Usually the documentation for a project of this size is voluminous. In this case, halos walang maibigay,” he said.

This “alarming trend” of the executive bloating the public debt by agreeing to donor-driven loans “must be slowed down, more so if the process lacks transparency,” said the senator.

To address this, the Senate has included two provisions in the 2019 national budget that will guide the release of funds for overseas development aid and other foreign-funded activities.

These provisions will have the effect of law, Recto said.

The first provision, he said, prohibits the use of fund for “any project intended for public video surveillance and communication system with suppliers or service providers that are considered as serious risks to national security or interest or are involved in cases regarding information leakage, computer or network hacking, and other forms of cyber espionage, whether in the Philippines or in other countries.”

The second provision, meanwhile, enumerates the foreign-assisted projects which may draw from authorized appropriations for fiscal year 2019.

“The Safe Philippines Project is not among the 13 projects listed,” Recto pointed out.

Despite said provisions, a P7.42 billion funding for the project was still included in this year’s budget under the Unprogrammed Fund.

“Ang misteryo dito, July pa lang, may naka-park nang P7 billion. Pero ang supply contract, November na na-approve. They put the cart before the horse,” Recto said. /je