US renews attack on Chinese contractor, targeting Manila Bay reclamation projects

Mangrove trees along Manila Bay (Elmer nev valenzuela /CC BY-SA 4.0)
The US Embassy in the Philippines yesterday told local media that it was concerned about the large number of reclamation projects underway in Manila Bay.

It said it was worried about their environmental impact, and also about the involvement of the very large China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), a contractor the US has sanctioned in the past.

In a text to Philippine news site Business Mirror, embassy spokesman Kanishka Gangopadhyay said the embassy was in “regular discussions” with the Philippines government regarding the projects.

The text said: “We have expressed concerns about the potential negative long-term and irreversible impacts to the environment, the resilience to natural hazards of Manila and nearby areas and to commerce”.

There are presently 32 reclamation projects being carried out in the bay, one of which was awarded to China Harbour Engineering Company, a subsidiary of CCCC. This project involves the creation of three artificial islands.

The text said the embassy was concerned about these projects’ “ties” to CCCC.

In August 2020, the US Department of Commerce added CCCC to its “Entity List” of sanctioned companies for its role in “helping the Chinese military construct and militarise artificial islands in the South China Sea”. 

The text reminded the news site of the eight-year debarment of CCCC’s predecessor company by the World Bank in 2009 for a World Bank-funded roads improvement project in the Philippines.

In January 2021, US pressure was successful in halting a $10bn airport project, to be built on a reclaimed island in Manila Bay. Sangley Point was to have been carried out by a consortium led by China Communications (see further reading).

The US Embassy said it will “continue to support high quality, sustainable, and transparent investments to benefit the Filipino people and will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities on this matter.”

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