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‘Wag sunud-sunuran! Koko not keen on following Malaysian PM’s crackdown on Chinese-funded projects

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By Xave Gregorio

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel IV is not keen on following in the footsteps of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who cancelled two Chinese-funded projects in an effort to curb national debt.

In a Viber message to Senate reporters, Pimentel said Friday (August 29) that “no two countries are 100 percent similarly situated.”

“Let us decide for ourselves what [is] best to do given our own situation and our own analysis. We should not blindly copy what other countries are doing,” he said.

Mahathir cancelled the $20 billion 688-kilometer East Coast Rail Link and a natural gas pipeline project in Sabah as Malaysia could not afford these Chinese-funded projects.

China has been criticized of pushing a “debt trap diplomacy,” where it offers developing countries, like Malaysia and the Philippines, massive infrastructure projects which these countries would be unable to pay, forcing them to sell ownership to Chinese firms.

In 2017, Sri Lanka handed over the Hambanota port to China on a 99-year lease amid its failure to pay around $8 billion in debt to state-controlled Chinese firms.

This has left some opposition solons like Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano warning that the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, which has been borrowing from China to fund the ambitious Build, Build, Build project, may also fall into the debt trap.