By James Hernandez
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday (April 10) directed the government to comment on the petition seeking to void the P2.69 billion loan given by China over the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
“The Supreme Court ordered the respondents to file their comment to the petition within a period of 10 days,” said SC Spokesperson Brian Hosaka.
The SC acted on the petition filed by Makabayan bloc lawmakers led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and former Rep. Neri Colmenares which sought for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction against the implementation of the loan agreement.
They named as respondents President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, National Economic Development Authority head Ernesto Pernia and Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra.
In their petition, the petitioners expressed concerns about provisions in the loan agreement which used as collateral patrimonial assets.
“This situation obviously impacts negatively on our national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and is inimical to our national interest,” they stated.
Critics have already expressed concerns that should the Philippines default with its loan it could lose the gas-rich Reed Bank which is classified as a patrimonial asset.
“‘Collateralization’ of patrimonial property for unpaid obligations under a foreign loan contract or as an award in an arbitral proceeding is unconstitutional and illegal,” read the petition.
Apart from this, the petitioners said under the agreement the Philippine government is bound by the laws of China with a Chinese court designated to settle disputes that would arise in the deal.
“By doing so, Respondents betrayed the lack of sensitivity to the Constitution and gravely abused their discretion, when they acceded to the arbitration provision in the Loan Agreement which is manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the GRP and so one-sided in favor of China. Such one-sidedness is plain even to the uninitiated eye,” they pointed out.