There’s a tremendous campaign of disinformation and fake news against the Philippines ’ongoing projects and financial cooperation with China, but the Duterte administration has forcefully debunked the detractors’ claims again and again.
China’s loans constitute only 4.5 percent of all Philippine foreign debt while the Japanese loans amount to 9.5 percent, the rest with Western financial and commercial banking institutions which can easily be verified by anyone seeking the facts.
Should we wonder why the detractors don’t make that effort to look into the real data? We shouldn’t, their interest is to sabotage the country’s progress and the Independent Foreign Policy of the country today.
The constant repetition of false and fake news creates almost permanent damage in the perception of media audiences. It is vital for the concerned government, media and citizens to step up the campaign to correct the wrong impressions. Otherwise, the Philippines’ development program will be sabotaged beyond repair.
Like the Philippines, other countries that were victimised by the disinformation or fake news campaigns of the Western media and regional and domestic cohorts have learned their lessons from tasting the bitter fruits of Western duplicity, especially American media disinformation. One of the major pieces of disinformation by Western media is the Chinese & Sri Lankan financial arrangements for the Hambantota Port which has been the “poster child” of US claims of the “China Debt Trap.”
China, in fact, was a lifesaver for Sri Lanka which used the $1.1-billion debt-equity swap with China to relieve its debt burden mainly coming from ADB with RS (Rupees) 533.8 billion, International Development Association for Rs. 291.1 billion, Japan Rs. 457.5 billion and India for Rs. 37.4 billion.
China holds only Rs. 117.3 billion of Sri Lanka’s debt, less than 10 percent.
The Hambantota Port has in fact vastly improved its performance under the management-lease according to the Colombo Gazette I reviewed, increasing vessels handled, by 136 percent.
The New York Times started the Sri Lanka fake news about the Hambantota debt trap in 2016. It’s just like the Forbes article by Anders Corr in May 2017 reporting China’s loans to the Philippines interest rate will range from 10 percent to 20 percent when the actual fact is 2 percent.
Corr wrote: “More likely, at 10-percent interest, the new debt could go to $452 billion, bringing Philippines’ debt: GDP ratio to 197 percent, second to the worst in the world.” How silly that several columnists in the Philippines repeated this Sri Lanka fake news incessantly, and so many swallowed it as gospel truth.
It is not only the Philippines and Filipinos waking up to the truth that any “debt trap” has been from the US and its allies with their predatory financial institutions. Bangladesh and Myanmar have learned their lessons as their loan application to the World Bank were denied due to terms the two countries could not accept and hence returned to seek China’s financial assistance and were granted.
Bangladesh’s Hasima government which last 2018 just won a fresh mandate, had been applying but was denied by the World Bank for $billion needed for the construction of its vital Padma Bridge that will link the country with the rest of Asia raising its GDP by as much as 2 percent.
Bangladesh tried to finance it on its own fearing the debt trap until they learned the China Debt Trap story being debunked. And then it turned to China and was given $3-billion assistance at 2-percent interest for the rail line including 66 main bridges, 244 minor bridges and 14 new rail stations.
To be complete in 2022 it is now seen as a link to the BRI and opens up tremendous trading potential with Myanmar and the rest of the region. A 2-percent boost to its GDP is no chicken feed.
It is the same case with Myanmar which had started to fear the so-called debt trap scrapped the construction of a railway between China’s Ruili and Kyaukpyu at the west coast of Myanmar for a shortcut bypassing the Malacca Strait, however realising the fake news that the Hambantota scare was Myanmar has again signed on to China’s BRI with the MOU for the establishment of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, hoping for China to also transfer its labor-intensive industries to Myanmar. Anyone can verify this good news in reliable Myanmar English news sites.
The past few days, during the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir, some mainstream Philippine newspapers have been selectively highlighting statements of the guest that would create that “China scare,” this is no different from all the rest of the scaremongering the purveyors of fake anti-PH and China cooperation fake news.
There are at least 250,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong with a population of only 7.3 million, a hundred thousand in Taiwan which has a population of 23.5 million. There are only 200,000 Mandarin speaking online gaming legal Chinese workers in the Philippines of 105-million Filipinos.
Malaysia has a population of 31.62 million with over six-million Chinese-Malaysians, and the Third Wave of Chinese immigrant businessmen, Mahathir used this as an election issue but now Mahathir is the first one to sign up to attend the April BRI Forum, rushing ahead of Duterte.
The Philippines, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s positive experiences with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and financial cooperation debunk with finality the repeated disinformation and fake news of detractors, though there is nothing wrong in continuing due diligence.