Philippine finance officials said the country will be able to repay Xi Jinping’s government for millions of dollars in backing for local water projects, a bid to quell rising concerns that it risks falling into a Chinese debt trap. The country’s constitution requires an automatic allotment of funds for annual debt payments, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said at a televised briefing on Wednesday. “We’ve never had a history that we’ve reneged on our obligations even through the hardest times,” he said. Since taking office in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed deals for billions’ worth of Chinese loans and grants. Explained: Belt and Road Initiative Duterte now faces concern that he’s agreed to unfavourable terms while taking on China-funded infrastructure projects including dams, roads and rails. It’s part of a wave of criticism toward Asian governments from Malaysia to Pakistan who have signed onto Xi’s signature Belt and Road trade and infrastructure programme. US Vice-President Mike Pence in November called on nations to avoid loans that would leave them indebted to Beijing. Loan conditions signed with China – which have been drafted to allow Beijing to seek arbitration or even possibly seize assets over non-payment – are standard for all bilateral agreements, another Finance Undersecretary, Mark Dennis Joven, said. Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Monday the Philippines won’t lose rights on gas fields in the disputed South China Sea to China even if the Manila government defaults on a US$62 million loan for a separate water project that could be used as collateral. That risk was flagged on Wednesday by Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a critic of Beijing’s practices. Carpio said in a text message “there will be a huge problem” if all financing agreements with China follow the template used for the dam project. “This is not an ordinary arbitral award between private parties. There is here a waiver of sovereign immunity on jurisdiction and on execution of the award,” he said. An opposition senate candidate has also raised concerns over high interest rates attached to the loans and Manila’s concealment of loan terms for another China-backed dam project deal signed last year.