Asian Century Journal

An Asian Century Philippines Publication

Pernicious Pernia’s Perfidy

 

The week July 20, 2022 to July 26, 2022 saw the last stretch of the anti-China disinformation campaign of the Amboy press and media that began with the deliberate MSM (mainstream media) mis-reporting of and by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) Undersecretary Cesar Chavez deliberately or clumsy misstatement of China’s continuing and normal loan interest rate offer amounting to P 280-billion ($ 6-billion) as “withdrawn” by China.

 

To state for the nth time, CHINA never WITHDREW ANY LOAN OFFER. It was the Philippine side that withdrew its application for the loan and for the reason that the previous government’s finance secretary, Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, wanted to give the new administration of President Bongbong Marcos (PBBM) leeway to renegotiate the terms of the loans. This Philippine withdrawal of its loan request was made in May 2022, a month before the induction of the new president.

 

The following are the words of Sec. Dominguez as quoted to the Philippine News Agency by Sec. Cesar Chavez in his interview which was published on July 15, 2022, “’In his text message to me this morning, former Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez said that he ‘cancelled the application instead of keeping it in suspended animation,’ Chavez said. ‘DOTr understands that this is in light of the upcoming transition of government, and in deference to the incoming administration.’”

 

With that clear statement from Chavez that it was Sec. Dominguez admitting “he cancelled the application instead of keeping it in suspending animation” the Press still headlined the news such as the PNA’s interview with Chavez himself “China withdraws funding for 3 railway projects: DOTR” and the Inquirer spins it to “Debt trap avoided, China loans withdrawn” (a headline Inquirer quickly deleted hours later), and the MSM continued to spin it in broadcast venues.

 

A brief digression at this point on the broader Amboy anti-China disinformation campaign, on July 20 the Philippine’s version of CNN Live with Rico Hizon interviewed the Singapore’s top diplomat Kishore Mahbubani and former UN Security Council president. The interview was entitled “Marcos urged to assert Hague ruling” which was never asserted by Kishore Mahbubani in the entire interview, in fact Kishore kept insisting that “PH must not be used as power by U.S. or China.”

 

The pariah ABS-CBN’s network swung into action with its ANC on July 25, 2022 interviewing former NEDA chief entitled “China ‘dribbling ball in infra funding, wants something in return”. Pernia claims China wants the Philippines to keep quiet on its South China Sea territorial claims which China has never done, in fact China has always sought to talk and discuss what it calls these “small differences” as there are bigger issues such as cooperation for mutual benefit which is already happening.

 

Pernia is full of perfidy. Lately, he’s been saying that the Philippines should avoid China and source funds from other countries like Japan. In a February 2017 PNA report he made some statements that are both ignorant and revealing seen from today:

 

“’During the joint membership meeting of the Makati Business Club and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said China charges the loans with an interest rate of 2 to 3 percent, while that of Japan is only at 0.25 to 0.75 percent. 

 

“’We cannot get all the loans from the ODA (official development assistance) of Japan. They have to give to other countries as well… Between 2 and 3-percent interest rate is still much better than commercial (loans),” he told reporters.’”

 

First of all, Pernia makes a grievous mistake in comparing China’s 2% to 3% interest rate for its ODA to Japan’s 0.25% to 0.75%. How an economist would make such a basic error is beyond me or should be beyond any serious and educated student of these loans. Pernia is actually comparing apples to oranges because the Japanese loans are quoted in Yen and when converted could be even higher than the Chinese loans which are quoted in US Dollars! I have to use the exclamation point because, how can a NEDA chief make such a basic mistake unless he’s intending to dis-inform!

 
DOF points out that if converted to USD, the 2% interest on Chinese loans (Kaliwa, Chico) is lower compared to Japan’s 2.7% (North-South Commuter Rail), COURTESY: @pia_gutierrezRadio Television Malacañang – RTVM
 

China’s ODA revolving around the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is to help the world and the countries involving, mostly developing countries, develop economically and hence increase the overall prosperity of the whole world and obviate the pressures for tension and conflict amongst states due to shortages of food, water, power and productivity. While Japan, as the magazine The Diplomat reports in Daisuke Akimoto’s “Japan’s Changing ODA Diplomacy” states:

 

“In essence, Japan’s ODA strategy has been embedded in its diplomatic vision, namely the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept as pointed out by Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).” Now, we know “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is the code name for the restoration of U.S. hegemony in the Asia-Pacific and the maintenance of the 800 military bases surrounding China to contain China’s rise and primed to trigger conflict and even war.

 

The second point he makes in the 2018 interview is the fact that the Philippines is turning to China because since the mid-2010s and at this point in time and especially in the 2022 financial crisis of the U.S. and its allies, and particularly Japan’s ODA funds are almost tapped out. Why did Pernia know it then and not now? Duterte’s economic mistake is like PBBM’s now, relying on the Amboy economists. It is no surprise that Pernia was kicked out of the NEDA by Duterte in 2020 by Karl Kendrick Chua.

 

In the Philippine Star interviewed Pernia is quoted saying that China has been niggardly in its funding that it hasn’t even breached $ 600-million of its $ 9-billion commitment. The 2021 Inquirer reports quoting his own colleague at that time, finance undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven, states “Joven said that last year, $620-million worth of official development assistance (ODA) loans and grants from China were disbursed out of the $4.6 billion in existing projects, which were in the procurement process.“

 

The $ 620-million amount is even an understatement as many of the project already done in the Philippines like the Estrella-Pantaleon and the Binondo-Intramuros bridges both worth billions of pesos are donations, and the $ 620-milion do not cover the private sector commitments which are also part of the overall $ 25-billion package signed between President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo R. Duterte over the years. The DITO telecommunications project alone already shelled out $ 1-Billion of its projected $ 5-Billion investment.

 

So, please don’t be fooled by MSM, mainstream media, when you see anti-China headlines and TV interviews.

 
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, visits Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on July 6, in this photo posted on Marcos’ Twitter account. (Photo courtesy of Philippine president’s office)
 

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