US questions presence of blacklisted China firm in Manila Bay project

The state-owned China Communications Construction Co. was blacklisted for playing various roles in the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea.


US Embassy spokesman Kanishka Gangopadhyay (Photo courtesy of Gangopadhyay)

August 3, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — The United States Embassy in Manila has called attention to a reclamation project in Manila Bay involving a Chinese construction company that was blacklisted by Washington three years ago.

In a statement on Tuesday night, the embassy’s spokesman, Kanishka Gangopadhyay, said the company—the state-owned China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC)—“has also been cited by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for engaging in fraudulent business practices.”

CCCC was one of the 24 Chinese companies blacklisted by the United States since 2020 for having played various roles in the creation of artificial islands that transformed a number of features of the South China Sea into Beijing’s military outposts.

China’s expansionist claims in the strategic waterway have for years been raising tensions with neighboring countries including the Philippines, a security treaty ally of the United States. The Asian economic giant continues to ignore the historic 2016 arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines and invalided China’s so-called nine-dash line claim and reclamation activities.

‘Irreversible impacts’

“The Embassy is in regular discussions with the government regarding ongoing reclamation projects in Manila Bay. 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,’’ the embassy said.

“We are also concerned that the projects have ties to the China Communications Construction Co., which has been added to the US Department of Commerce’s Entity List for its role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea.’’

According to CCCC’s website, one of its partner companies, China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd., has been conducting reclamation activities for three artificial islands in Manila Bay since Jan. 10 this year.

Located in Pasay City, the Pasay Reclamation Development Project requires backfilling works that would move some 97.11 million cubic meters of earth and the dredging of some 15 million cubic meters of land, according to information available on the website.

Marcos meeting

President Marcos in January met with several officials of CCCC and welcomed their intention to pour in more investments, particularly their proposal to construct a 270-kilometer bridge that will connect Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, to Rosario City, La Union.

“We 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,” Gangopadhyay told the Inquirer when asked if the embassy was monitoring other CCCC projects in the country.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese Embassy in Manila when the Inquirer sought its officials for comment. An email to CCCC for an interview also remained unacknowledged as of press time.

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