Locsin: Agreements with China 'hardly materialized'

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. (FILE PHOTO).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippimes, September 26) — The Philippines may have signed numerous deals with China but they have yet to take form, Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said.

Locsin made this statement in an interview with Australian Prime Minister and Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd, who asked him about the Philippines' relationship with China.

"Yes we signed up to this and that agreement, but they hardly materialized," Locsin told Rudd during an event of the Asia Society in New York City on Wednesday.

"They hardly materialized and if you were to compare it to Japanese investments and official assistance, nothing," Locsin said, adding that the Philippines is "feeling" the "Rising Japan" phenomenon.

The Philippines has signed several bilateral agreements with China over the past three years. In Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Manila in November 2018 alone, a total of 29 deals were signed, including the controversial memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development, which made progress this year following the creation of the intergovernmental steering committee that would supervise negotiations for the projects.

Two flagship infrastructure projects are being funded in part through official development assistance from China: the ₱4.37-billion Chico River pump irrigation project and the ₱12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam project. Japan is funding six.

Critics have expressed concern the billions of pesos in grants and investments from China came with strings attached and that the Philippines could fall into a debt trap – something both Manila and Beijing officials denied.

READ: Impossible for PH to fall into debt trap — China

Rudd asked Locsin about the country's relations with China following the East Asian giant's continued rejection of the Philippines' arbitral victory on the South China Sea dispute. Officials of both countries have repeatedly stressed the sea row is not the sum total of their relationship.

Locsin also revealed how Duterte raised the arbitral ruling with Xi during his fifth visit to China. He said Duterte read parts of the landmark decision "at great length."

"It's a rather repetitive script he just keeps on saying and saying it," Locsin said. "And the reaction is, Xi Jinping smiles and says that's it, we agreed to disagree."

The arbitral ruling, which China continues to reject, invalidated its sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including some of the areas the Philippines claims and occupies as the West Philippine Sea.

READ: China rejects PH arbitral victory on South China Sea anew