THE MAKABAYAN bloc, led by Senate candidate Neri J. Colmenares, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the loan agreement with Export-Import Bank of China worth $211.2 million for the Kaliwa Dam project, claiming it violates the Constitution.
In a 54-page petition, the legislative bloc said the loan agreement for the Kaliwa Dam project contained a “confidentiality clause” which is prohibited by the Constitution.
“That the national interest is primordial and paramount in any dealings involving the national economy and patrimony is absolute. The Filipino people are going to pay for these loans and it is absurd why they should not allowed to have access to a loan agreement that they, the next generations of Filipinos, are burdened to pay,” it said.
It also noted that Mr. Colmenares has requested a copy of the Kaliwa Dam Project Agreement from the government but Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco did not act on the request.
“(T)he language of the Constitution on the right to information on foreign loans obtained or guaranteed by the government is complete, plain, clear and unambiguous. Any circumvention thereof shall be considered inimical to the national interest, and shall be dealt with accordingly as the law provides,” it added.
The bloc also said that the government has ignored the Constitutional requirement of prior approval from the Monetary Board (MB) before entering into loan agreements and has also assured China that the approval of the MB “will be forthcoming, thus forcing the hand of the Monetary Board to issue its approval.”
It also noted that nearly six months after the signing of the agreement, the MB has yet to approve of the loan.
It also claimed that the loan agreement was awarded to a “pre-selected Chinese contractor” which violates the rule on preference to qualified Filipinos as stated in the Constitution and other procurement laws.
Makabayan also said that the government agreed to submit any dispute that would arise in the agreement to the Hong Kong Arbitration International Center which it claimed is a tribunal that advocated for the Belt and Road Initiative of the government of China.
“By doing so, respondents swept aside the Constitution and gravely abused their discretion. It is clear that the choice of proper law of the Loan Agreement and the choice of tribunal are manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the Philippines and one-sided in favor of China,” it said. “Under these circumstances, it will be impossible for respondents to defend the lack of impartiality or neutrality expected of a tribunal in arbitration proceedings.
The Kaliwa Dam Project was originally proposed for a Public-Private Partnership valued at P18.5 billion, which was approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board in May 2014. MWSS submitted the project to NEDA for funding under Official Development Assistance from China on Jan. 17, 2017.
The Makabayan bloc in March also filed a petition to the high court questioning the constitutionality of the Chico River Irrigation Project loan with China for $62 million. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas