The Myth of PH’s Bankruptcy and “Chinese Debt Slavery”
Figure 1 Philippines public debt, 2016-2022 (% of GDP) Sources: Forbes/Corr; Philippine Bureau of Treasury (BoT)
IN May 2017, Forbes magazine published a column which claimed that “Philippines new debt of $167 billion could reach $452 billion: China will benefit”. It was written by Anders Corr, who has been described as an “independent” geopolitical risk analyst.
“Over 10 years,” Corr boldly predicts, “which could swell [the] The Philippines’ debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio is 296%, the highest in the world. Fueled by expensive loans from China, he said, “Dutertenomics will put the Philippines in virtual debt bondage.”
At the time, I argued that Corr’s prediction was silly and up to 240-250 percentage points. Yet it has been widely quoted both internationally and in the Philippines.
Stupid assumptions, silly predictions
Around 2016-2017, Philippine authorities, including the Bureau of Treasury (BoT), expected the debt to decrease slightly between 2017 and 2022.
In retrospect, the devastation of the pandemic sent debt levels skyrocketing around the world. But has the Philippines’ debt-to-GDP ratio shot up to 300% as Corr predicted? No, this is not the case. It is now around 60% of GDP (gross domestic product) and sustainable (see figure 1).
Does China account for the bulk of this debt as Corr predicted? No, this is not the case. Over 70% of the debt is domestic. Does China Dominate Foreign Debt? No, this is not the case.
Eight foreign creditors account for three-quarters of all the Philippines’ external debt. Dominating a third of this debt, Japan is in a class by itself. It is followed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Even Taiwan is a larger creditor than China, whose role in external debt accounts for about 5% of the total (see Figure 2).
So Corr’s “predictions” for 2017 have absolutely nothing to do with economic realities. His Forbes comment was completely wrong as I argued half a decade ago.
In light of his own numbers, Corr is down nearly 240 percentage points.
Figure 2 Top Foreign Creditors ($millions, December 2021)* *Philippines total external debt by creditor country. As of 31 Dec. 2021 Source: BSP
Geopolitical ax jobs
Anders Corr has a very special background. Most of its customers are tied to the Pentagon, its military allies and defense contractors. And he was an associate of Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii, like Ed Snowden when he was still working for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).
Additionally, Corr served half a decade in US military intelligence. He conducted “research” for the US Army in Afghanistan, US Pacific Command and US Special Operations Command Pacific. By his own testimony, he seems to specialize in destabilization efforts. Hence its operations and customers in the Philippines, Taiwan, Pakistan and, more recently, Ukraine.
In 2017, Corr did not provide any evidence to support his claims of Philippine claim. Still, the comment was quickly recycled in Western media. Even though Corr was later fired from Forbes.
When investment analysts commit such egregious failures in the markets, they are usually fired, banned, or, in cases of foul play, fined and detained. This was not the case with Corr.
Despite dire screenings, Corr continues to be used as an “expert” by major international media, such as Bloomberg, Fox, CNBC, The New York Times, Nikkei Review, Al Jazeera and UPI. In a 2022 report, the Congressional Research Service still describes Corr as an expert on the South China Sea and “China strategies.”
Leading Filipino observers have proven even more gullible.
How Corr’s fake news is prevalent in the Philippines
When Forbes published Corr’s rant, major network GMA News boldly headlined, “China to benefit: Duterte’s P8.2T infra program could force PHL into ‘slave’.”
Rappler rushed to interview communist leader Jose Maria Sison, who remains in the Netherlands and has been classified as a “person supporting terrorism” by the United States since 2002. Sison claimed that “Chinese loans could trap PH to give up West PH Sea”. Rappler used a PhD candidate to recount how the country “fell into the infamous Chinese debt trap.” And he paints Corr as an “expert on Xinjiang ‘concentration camps'”.
Rappler was funded by secretive American billionaire Pierre Omidyear, who cooperated with the US State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy.
ABS-CBN News, another major news network, often publishes Corr’s comments warning that the country is “risking sovereignty with loans from China”, portrays him as a Covid lockdown expert”, and recently quoted his diatribes that the Ukraine crisis will cause China to “tighten its grip in Asia.”
ABS-CBN is owned by the Lopez family, a powerful Filipino dynasty.
Philippine Star published an op-ed suggesting that the Duterte government’s infrastructure building spree would “tie the Philippines to China”. Federico Pascual Jr. quoted Corr verbatim, warning that “Duterte apologists” cannot dismiss Forbes/Corr truths.
The principal owner of the Star is MediaQuest Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based First Pacific-controlled telecommunications company PLDT; which, in turn, is chaired by Indonesian oligarch Anthoni Salim and led by Manuel Pangilinan, a critic of Duterte and China, like its board member, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario.
Subsequently, del Rosario’s Stratbase ADR Institute published a research paper on China’s BIS globalization warning regarding “proposed Chinese investment in the Philippines.” For ADRi, Corr’s piece proved the point.
These outlets share a common denominator: they depend on foreign funding or are owned by the 1% Filipino elite, or both. Curiously, their Corr promotion fosters the perception that journalistic integrity is not their primary goal.
Fatal fictions, economic hitmen
Corr’s predictions have no predictive power. His activities are more reminiscent of those of “economic hitmen”; that is, “highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the world with trillions of dollars”, as John Perkins put it.
The real question is this: why are such economic hitmen still used as “independent analysts” by some of the most powerful international media in the world?
And why does the Filipino media owned by foreign interests and/or domestic oligarchs continue to promote Corr’s stories, knowing full well that these fatal fictions are fake news?
Dan Steinbock is the founder of Difference Group and an internationally recognized expert on the global multipolar economy. He has worked at the India, China and America Institute (USA), the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). To learn more, see http://www.differencegroup.net/.
In 2017, Forbes magazine reported that President Duterte will force the Philippines into Chinese debt slavery and bankrupt the economy by 2022. The false story was heavily promoted by international and Filipino media. The question is: why?
Sources: Forbes/Corr; Philippine Bureau of Treasury (BoT)
Figure 1 Philippines public debt, 2016-2022 (% of GDP)
* Total external debt of the Philippines by creditor country. As of 31 Dec. 2021