Philippines won’t support US blacklisting of Chinese firms

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Rodrigo Duterte will allow Chinese companies to participate in infrastructure projects in the Philippines even if they are blacklisted by the United States, his spokesman said Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced last week it has added 24 state-owned Chinese firms, including subsidiaries of the China Communications Construction Co., to its commercial blacklist for their roles in constructing artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea that infringed on other nations’ claims.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte told Cabinet officials that the U.S. government can enforce its blacklists of Chinese companies in American territory, but “he would not follow the directives of the Americans because we are a free and independent nation and we need investors from China.”

“We are not a vassal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest,” he added.

Roque was asked if the Philippine government would allow a Chinese company to continue its involvement in a planned airport project at Sangley point in Cavite province south of Manila after news reports said it might be on the U.S. blacklist.

“I will be categorical, the Sangley project will continue. All other projects involving Chinese companies that are banned in the United States can continue in the Philippines,” Roque said in an online news conference.

Duterte has been one of the most vocal critics in Asia of U.S. security policies and has nurtured closer ties with Russia and China, where he has sought more trade and investment and infrastructure funds since coming to office in mid-2016.

In July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of “bullying” and announced that the U.S. would not recognize nearly all of China’s maritime claims to South China Sea areas contested by smaller neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China has accused Washington of meddling in a purely Asian dispute.

The Chinese government cannot be allowed to use the China Communications Construction Co. or other state-owned businesses “as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda,” Pompeo said.

“The United States will act until we see Beijing discontinue its coercive behavior in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilizing activity,” he said.

Washington has no territorial claims in the disputed waterway but has declared that the peaceful resolution of the long-simmering disputes and freedom of navigation and overflight in the contested region are in its national interest.

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