Fri, Mar 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Malaysian PM warns on Chinese influx in Manila

AFP, MANILA

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday warned the Philippines against letting in foreigners who could “disturb the political equations” as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Beijing pivot sparks an influx of Chinese workers.

At least 200,000 Chinese have flocked to Manila since Duterte’s 2016 election victory, many of them employed by online gaming firms that cater to Chinese players, a Philippine Senate inquiry was told late last year.

This has touched off concern, with some Philippine politicians alleging it drives up property prices, takes away jobs from locals and even affects tax revenues.

Mahathir, who has suspended several of his nation’s major projects with China, warned during an official visit to the Philippines against allowing a surge of foreigners.

“Foreign direct investment should not involve bringing huge numbers of foreigners to live in the country because that might disturb the political equations in the country,” Mahathir told ABS-CBN TV in an interview.

“If huge numbers of any foreigners [come] to live and stay in the country or to even influence the economy of a country, then you have to do some rethinking as to whether it is good or bad, or the limits that you have to impose on them,” Mahathir said.

Mahathir, 93, is in the Philippines for the first time since his shock election victory last year.

He was due to meet with Duterte later yesterday.

The Malaysian leader has taken a cautious approach to relations with China, saying he would discuss “unfair” terms of deals signed by his predecessor, Najib Razak.

Duterte’s pursuit of closer ties with China for the Philippines — a traditional ally of the US — has prompted a surge of Chinese worker arrivals.

Last year, legislators said about 200,000 Chinese were working in the nation and vowed to introduce protection for local workers.

Duterte has warmly embraced China, despite his nation’s long-standing maritime dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich sea, with competing claims from Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

Commenting on the dispute yesterday, Mahathir said there should be no impediment to vessels using the strategic waterway, through which trillions of dollars of global trade pass through each year.

“The most important thing is that the South China Sea in particular must be open to navigation,” he said.

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