THE Makabayan bloc asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a temporary restraining order and declare as unconstitutional the Chico River Irrigation Pump Project funded by China which would cost $62 million.

In a 67-page petition, the Makabayan bloc, a Congressional alliance, led by Senate candidate Neri J. Colmenares, said the “confidentiality clause” included in the agreement violates the Constitution.

“The Confidentiality Clause of the Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement brazenly disregards the constitutional right of the Filipino people to information on foreign loans obtained or guaranteed by the government, and is considered inimical to the national interest.”

It cited Article XII Section 21 of the Constitution which states that information on foreign loans by the government should be made public.

“By allowing the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to be bound by Article 8.8 of the Loan Agreement, Respondents, as representatives of the Filipino people, committed grave violation of Article XII Section 21, to the prejudice of the rights of the Filipino people and national interest.”

The Makabayan bloc also said the loan agreement does not conform to the Constitution as it obtained approval from the Monetary Board after the signing of the agreement, contrary to the Constitution which states that President may contract foreign loans with the prior concurrence of the Monetary Board.

It said that the Monetary Board approved the loan agreement only on May 17, 2018, more than a month after the country entered the contract on April 10 in the same year.

Under the Article 5.2 of the agreement, final approval of the Monetary Board is to be secured only after the signing of the agreement.

“By forcing (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) approval as a it accomplish after the agreement has been signed not only violates the Constitution but renders the Republic and the taxpayers vulnerable to possible payment of penalties should the BSP disapprove an agreement prematurely signed by the Philippine government,” it said.

It also claimed that some provisions of the loan agreement were contrary to the Constitution preference to qualified Filipinos and existing procurement laws.

According to Appendix 1 on Condition Precedent, an integral part of the agreement, China is not obliged to make any disbursements unless the country provides certified true copies of the commercial contract and any documents proving that the End-User has paid certain amounts to the Chinese contractor which is 15% of the advance payment under the commercial contract.

Makabayan claims that by agreeing to have the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) as the arbitrator for any dispute, the government “betrayed the lack of sensitivity to the Constitution and gravely abused their discretion.”

“Such one-sidedness is plain even to the uninitiated eye,” it said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas