COLOMBO: Sri Lanka opened a $292m Chinese-funded airport highway yesterday, amid Indian concern about Chinese influence as the island nation rebuilds after a nearly three-decade war.
Sri Lanka has invested heavily in infrastructure since the war ended in 2009 with defeat for separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.
The new 25.6km airport highway was built with a loan of $248.2m from Exim Bank of China, with China Metallurgical Group Corporation as the contractor.
China provided weapons to Sri Lanka in the final phase of the civil war and President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has awarded more than $4bn worth of infrastructure projects to China, mainly with Chinese loans.
India, Sri Lanka’s giant neighbour, shared intelligence with Colombo late in the war, but has also asked Rajapaksa to seek a political solution to the conflict’s root causes.
Rajapaksa’s government has come under heavy pressure from the West and human rights groups for alleged war crimes.
The Sri Lankan president, responding to Indian concerns over Chinese commercial deals, has said the relationship with China is more commercial than political in nature.
Sri Lanka has planned over $6 bn worth of projects, including airports and sea ports, highways, coal and hydro power plants and railways, mainly to be funded by Chinese loans.
Stunt at Unesco heritage site draws ire
MANILA: Philippine conservationists hit out yesterday at a wakeskating “stunt” that took place at an ancient mountain rice terrace, accusing sponsors of exploiting the Unesco World Heritage site.
Professional wakeskaters Brian Grubb of the United States and Dominik Preisner of Germany are shown on a video on YouTube skimming on the waters of the Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines’ northern mountain region. Wakeskating is similar to the popular water sport wakeboarding but users are not bound to the board.
“I noticed that on the back of the bills here, you could see all these rice terraces and tonnes of water,” Grubb says in the video, which was uploaded on Thursday and already viewed over 241,000 times as of yesterday. “It’s just a wakeskate paradise but no one even knew it was here.”
Although they said they obtained permission from local tribal leaders, the video quickly spread on social media, drawing mixed reactions from Filipinos.
“Wakeboarding at the terraces? It is a stunt totally inappropriate to the site. And stunt it is,” Augusto Villalon, president of the Heritage Society, said.
Philippine quake toll climbs to 215
MANILA: The death toll from the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that ravaged parts of the Visayas last October 15 has risen to 215 while the amount of property damage has exceeded P2.2 billion, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said yesterday. A majority of the families of the fatalities have been provided with financial assistance, according to the NDRRMC.
Two new fatalities were reported yesterday in Bohol, namely Diogracias Valleser, 46, of Antequera and Marcelina Catalan, 75, of Tubigon. A total of 201 fatalities were from Bohol, 13 from Cebu and one from Siquijor. Eight persons remain missing while 742 others were injured.
NDRRMC said the bereaved families of 182 fatalities have received P10,000 financial assistance each.Agencies