Philippines Cancels $10B Airport Project Led by Chinese Company

Marielle Lucenio
Philippines Cancels $10B Airport Project Led by Chinese Company Philippine Navy personnel wave the flags of the Philippines and Japan in front of a Beechcraft aircraft after it arrived from the Japanese Ministry of Defense at the Naval Air Group headquarters at Sangley Point in Cavite, south of Manila, March 26, 2018.

A province south of the Philippine capital has cancelled its plan to award a U.S. $10 billion contract to a Chinese company-led consortium to develop an airport because of “various deficiencies” in required documents, the local governor said Wednesday.

The consortium, made up of the China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC) – a company blacklisted by the United States – and MacroAsia Corp., a Philippine firm, was the sole bidder for the international airport in Sangley, a former military base at the mouth of Manila Bay in Cavite province.

“Due to the various deficiencies of the submission of requirements to conclude the joint venture agreement for the Sangley Point International Airport, the Cavite provincial government special selections committee has recommended the non-approval of the redevelopment of the former airbase presented by the applying parties,” Cavite province Gov. Jonvic Remulla said in a statement. 

He said his office had accepted and approved the move to cancel the project on Tuesday, adding that his office would seek to restart it with a “more qualified partner by October 2021.”

“I still believe that the new international airport is important for the country in the long run,” Remulla said. “It must also be stressed that the cancellation is not prejudicial against anyone.” 

The governor told Reuters that documents submitted by the consortium were “deficient in three or four items.”

“We saw it as a sign they were not fully committed,” Remulla said, according to the news agency.

Beijing-controlled CCCC is one of 24 Chinese firms and individuals that were sanctioned by the United States in August 2020 for what Washington said was their role in constructing artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.

In response, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the U.S. blacklist.

“[The] Sangley project will continue [and] all other projects involving Chinese companies that are banned in the U.S. can continue in the Philippines,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said last September. “We are not a vassal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest.”

Chinese projects

Since taking office, Duterte has sought development deals with the Chinese.

During a 2018 state visit to Manila by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two nations signed 29 bilateral deals that touched on big-ticket infrastructure projects, which fell under Duterte’s ambitious “build, build, build” infrastructure initiative.

The initiative calls for building bridges and highways, as well as the reconstruction of southern Marawi city, which was destroyed during a 2017 siege by Islamic State-linked militants and an ensuing five-month battle with government forces.

In early 2019, Philippine defense officials said two Chinese firms were eyeing the takeover of a major shipyard located inside a former U.S. naval base at Subic, north of Manila.

On Wednesday, Remulla said the decision was not connected to the U.S. decision.

The announcement about the cancelled airport project came 11 days after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up a visit to the Philippines. During his stay, the two countries finalized a deal to build a cargo railway that would connect the former American base at Subic with the former Clark U.S. air base here.

The project to build the 71-kilometer (44-mile) railway from the Subic Bay Freeport Zone to Clark International Airport is valued at close to $1 billion, officials said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was not privy to the specifics of the negotiations, but stressed that the Chinese government backed state companies seeking ventures in the Philippines “in accordance with laws and regulations.” 

“We believe the Philippine side will follow the principle of fairness and justice and provide a favorable environment for Chinese businesses, which serves the common interests of both sides,” Zhao said.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.