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Recto to Cabinet: Prepare to be grilled on 29 PH-China deals during budget debate

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday warned President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet that they should be ready for answers about the 29 deals signed between China and the Philippines during the plenary budget debates in the Senate.

Malacañang has not made public copies of the 29 deals signed in the presence of Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including a memorandum of understanding on joint development of oil and gas in the South China Sea.

Recto, however, said the concerned departments should be ready with answers once the Senate began deliberating on the proposed P3.757-trillion budget in plenary.

“If the Senate will start floor debates on the 2019 national budget next month, then the particulars of any or all of the 29 Philippine -China deals signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit may be asked of the Cabinet member who signed the deal, or whose agency is responsible for implementing the agreement,” he noted in a statement.

Recto said: “This is to serve notice to department secretaries that the issue of the 29 agreements may crop up in the course of the plenary examination of their budget.”

“So be prepared for queries,” he said.

“More so if the agreement binds us to a project which will be financed by loans, enlarges the national debt, or requires large budgetary counterpart requiring yearly appropriations. Is the project really needed by the people? Or is it supplier driven?” Recto said.

“The price tag of these commitments must be explained, as well as the benefits to the public. If these are grants and interest-free loans, then the Senate will be advised as well so that we can convey our thanks,” he said.

“A senator during the budget debate can focus a powerful spotlight on these agreements,” Recto said.

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