US diplomats have raised security and environmental concerns with the Philippines over the involvement of a Chinese company in a land reclamation project in Manila Bay, a US embassy spokesman said Wednesday.
A subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co, which was blacklisted by Washington in 2020, has been contracted to reclaim 318 hectares (786 acres) in waters fronting the US embassy and Philippine Navy headquarters, the Philippine Reclamation Authority told AFP.
US embassy spokesman Kanishka Gangopadhyay said the American diplomatic mission had expressed several concerns with the Philippines, including the project’s “potential negative long-term and irreversible impacts to the environment”.
“We are also concerned that the projects have ties to the China Communications Construction Co., which has been added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List for its role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea,” he said in a statement.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has reinforced its stance by ripping up thousands of hectares of reef to create new land for artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.
Environmental groups have long warned that land reclamation in Manila Bay will worsen flooding in the sprawling metropolis of 13 million people.
The 34.4 billion-peso ($624-million), four-year project is a joint venture between the Manila City government and Waterfront Manila Premier Development, said Joseph Literal, assistant general manager at the reclamation authority.
The Chinese subsidiary was contracted by the joint venture to carry out the work, he said.
The government permit requires the contractor to provide a 200-metre (219-yard) access channel for the Philippine Navy, he added.
Waterfront company representatives could not be reached, while the Chinese embassy in Manila did not comment when asked.
Philippine Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga on Wednesday said other parties had also raised “concerns” about the project and the ministry “will be conducting a cumulative impact assessment of the reclamation projects” on the 1,700 square-kilometre (656-square-mile) bay.
In 2020, the government of then-Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said it would not follow the US lead in blacklisting Chinese companies involved in island-building in disputed waters.