China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on September 20, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

  • The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion
  • The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China

BEIJING: The Maldives are not “mired in a Chinese debt trap,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat told the visiting Maldivian foreign minister, amid fears in the Indian Ocean country of debts as high as $3 billion owing to Beijing.

The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China, which invested millions of dollars during the rule of the pro-China former leader Abdulla Yameen as part of China’s Belt and Road plan, designed to improve its global trade reach.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, which won a landslide in the archipelago’s parliamentary election in April, fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy.

Meeting Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said China’s cooperation with the Maldives would not be affected by the change of government, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

“China’s cooperation with the Maldives aims to promote the well-being of the Maldivian people, without political intentions and without seeking geopolitical interests,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.

China provides what help it can to the Maldives without attaching political preconditions, and does not interfere in the its internal affairs, Wang added.

“It is totally without basis to say that ‘the Maldives is mired in a Chinese debt trap’,” he said. The Chinese statement quoted Shahid as saying no country in the world had been as generous to helping the Maldives, pointing to the building of infrastructure and “provision of a large amount of aid and loans.”

“In this regard, there is absolutely no so-called ‘debt trap’. To say that is complete nonsense.” China has been stung by criticism, mostly from Western countries, that it loads up poor, developing nations with unsustainable debt they have no hope of paying back, and that it is seeking to use this to leverage political influence.

China says its loans are much welcomed and much needed, and points out that it provides them with no political pre-conditions and gives funds to places that Western donors ignore.


Five dead from strong quake in southern Philippines

Updated 52 min 42 sec ago

Five dead from strong quake in southern Philippines

  • More than 200 aftershocks from the 6.3 magnitude tremor have also been recorded
  • Another 5.3 magnitude quake rocked Davao Oriental around 4:53 a.m. on Thursday  

MANILA: Five people were reported killed and dozens injured after a strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck southern Philippines Wednesday evening, sending people scurrying out of their residences, buildings and shopping malls.

Information released by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) showed the shallow quake of tectonic origin occurred 7:37 p.m. 22 km southeast of Tulunan town in North Cotabato.

It was felt at intensity 7, described as destructive under the Phivolcs Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS), in Kidapawan City, and in Tulunan and M’Lang towns, North Cotabato.

Intensity 6 was reported in Digos City, Davao Del Sur; Sto. Niño, South Cotabato; and Tacurong City.

President Duterte’s home city of Davao experienced intensity 5, as well as, in Alabel and Malungon, Sarangani; Lake Sebu, Palomok, Tampakan and Tupi in South Cotabato; Koronadal City; Roxas and Pikit in North Cotabato; General Santos (GenSan) City; and Kalamansig, Lebak and Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

Intensity 4 was felt in Sarangani, Agusan Del Sur, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Cotabato City, and Maguindanao; intensity 3 in Iligan City and Dipolog City; intensity 2 in Butuan City and Zamboanga City; and intensity 1 in Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur.

Reports showed the fatalities, three of them children, were from Datu Paglas in Maguindanao, M’lang in Cotabato, and Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur.

The victim from Datu Paglas was a young girl who died due to injuries sustained when the wall of their house collapsed and hit her. In M’lang town, Cotabato, a man succumbed to heart attack, while a two-year-old boy, who was then sleeping, was killed after a block of cement from a fallen wall hit him.

At a far-flung village also in Magsaysay town, a mother and her nine-month old son were killed after an earthquake-induced landslide buried their house.

The mother was reported to be still cuddling her infant when their bodies were retrieved. Rescuers managed to save the father and the couple’s two other children.

While authorities continue to assess structural damage caused by the earthquake, reports placed the number of injured at around 60, many of them hit by falling objects and debris.

Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista said over the radio it felt like a steamroller was passing by when the quake struck. He described the shake as very strong.

Evangelista said he has ordered the forced evacuation of residents at a village situated at the foot of Mount Apo following reports of landslides and rockslides.

Patients in hospitals in some of the affected areas were also evacuated, while some residents, still shocked and traumatized by the strong quake, have chosen to temporarily stay by the roadside outside their homes.

Schools have been shut in the damaged areas, which are being seen unsafe for use. Many houses and government buildings were also severely damaged by the strong quake.

In General Santos City, firefighters continue to battle the fire that hit the Gaisano Mall after the earthquake struck. 70 to 80 percent of the mall have already been gutted by the fire, according to the Bureau of Fire Protections.

Some 2,000 employees of the Gaisano mall now fear losing their jobs due to the blaze, according to reports.

Meanwhile, another earthquake with 5.3 magnitude rocked Davao Oriental around 4:53 a.m. Thursday. No damages or casualties have been reported so far, but aftershocks are expected.

More than 200 aftershocks from the 6.3 magnitude tremor have also been recorded.

In the wake of the strong earthquake, the country’s chief state seismologist Renato Solidum said this should serve as a “wake up call” to local government units that do not take earthquake drills seriously.

These drills, he said, are intended to orient local government what to do when a big earthquake occurs.

Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, as it is located along a typhoon belt and the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”