MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy have raised concerns over a reported government plan to allow Chinese firms to develop three Philippine islands into tourist destinations.
“All we can do now is to monitor what else they are doing that may impact on our security,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.
Fuga Island in Cagayan and Chiquita and Grande Islands in Subic Bay, Zambales will reportedly be transformed into tourist destinations and economic zones.
Sought for comment, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, “I’ve not heard anything from the national security adviser nor the national defense secretary.” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier warned about threats to national security posed by the increasing number of mainland Chinese in the Philippines.
Lorenzana had also called Chinese attention to their bullying in the West Philippine Sea.
More than two months ago, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) revealed having secured $3.9 billion worth of investment commitments from Chinese firms for various projects. They made the commitment on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Initiative Forum held in Beijing, China.
Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp., a $2-billion Smart City would be built in Fuga Island, to be patterned after the Chinese firm’s ongoing mega infrastructure project in Fujian province in China.
Lorenzana said the DND, like the Philippine Navy, “was not also consulted when it was offered to the Chinese for development into a tourist destination.”
Navy spokesman Capt. Jonathan Zata said the three islands are important to the Philippines, especially in terms of security.
“Historically, we’re talking about three islands and islets, Fuga Island is in our northwestern border, then the two other islands – Grande and Chiquita – are right in the mouth of Subic,” Zata said in English and Filipino.
“Its strategic importance was highlighted even in 1900s when it was made part of the defense perimeter of the Americans when they took over Subic Bay,” he explained, referring to Grande Island.
“So its significance is not only economic but more importantly it’s maritime strategic security. So those are the things the Navy wants highlighted – that (authorities) consider that these important features, locations are essential in maintaining our strategic maritime security,” he added.
Zata stressed it’s important for the military or the Navy to have access to these islands if ever the need arises.