Press Release
August 17, 2019

Cancel deals with Chinese firms to develop 3 'strategic' islands - De Lima

Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Mr. Duterte to call off the Philippine government agreements with Chinese firms to develop three strategic islands in the country to avoid security risks posed by China's aggressive military activities in the Asia Pacific region.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 93 calling for the cancellation of the planned development of Fuga, Grande and Chiquita Islands, as well as any other location of significant strategic maritime security importance, backed by China.

"No amount of guarantee of good behavior nor promise of economic gain from China would justify placing our country at risk by allowing foreign presence in strategic locations, especially by a government that has repeatedly expressed their claim over our territorial waters, as well as those of our neighboring states," she said.

Chinese investors are reportedly targeting three strategic islands in northern Philippines to transform them into economic and tourism zones, namely: Fuga in Cagayan province, and adjacent Grande and Chiquita in Subic Bay, Zambales province.

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority confirmed an agreement with Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp. to develop a $2-billion Smart City in Fuga Island, patterned after the firm's ongoing mega infrastructure project in Fujian province in China.

During Duterte's visit to Beijing for the Belt and Road Initiative forum last April, GFTG Property Holdings and Sanya CEDF Sino-Philippine Investment Corp. forged a $298-million project to develop the adjacent Grande and Chiquita islands under the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

De Lima pointed out that the military officials' warning about security risks involved on Chinese development of the three islands considered "strategic" features of the Philippines' maritime security should warrant the cancellation of these agreements.

"There is already sufficient basis to support the immediate cancellation of these development agreements," she said.

"With claims from no less than our top military officials that Chinese presence in these strategic border islands would pose, if not guarantee, security risks to our country, President Duterte should go ahead and immediately cancel these development agreements with Chinese firms involving these islands," she added.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman B/Gen. Edgard Arevalo earlier warned that the government's plan to allow Chinese investors to develop these strategic islands could "compromise" Manila's security and would allow unrestricted access to both the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.

It may be recalled that Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Philippines may opt to cancel the planned development of three islands backed by China if found to be a threat to national security.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, maintained that increasing China's presence in the country's coasts would spark regional instability and cause international tension that could hamper the country's economic development and endanger the Filipinos.

"It does not matter whether the development is commercial in nature as it would be easy to convert these locations to military assets and force them to serve military purposes," she said.

The lady Senator from Bicol has also filed SR No. 64 seeking a Senate investigation into the exact nature, terms and parameters of the reported "verbal fishing agreement" with China to determine its legal force and effect and whether it complies with constitutional and legal requirements.

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