Probe of China plans for 3 PH islands sought

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:42 AM August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers from the militant party list group Bayan Muna on Tuesday asked the House of Representatives to investigate development plans for three islands, supposedly with Chinese funding, that have drawn objections from national security officials.

In a resolution, Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat asked the House committee on national defense and security to look into the implications of the development plans for Fuga Island in Cagayan province and Grande and Chiquita islands on Subic Bay, Zambales province.


The lawmakers cited how the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Navy had raised alarm over the reported government plans to allow Chinese companies to develop the three strategically located islands.

Malacañang has assured the public that it will reject the China-backed projects if they prove to be security threats.


Pressing concerns

“These concerns are even more pressing now with the recent aggressive naval and military maneuvers of China in the South China Sea, including the country’s West Philippine Sea territory without the Philippine government’s consent,” the lawmakers said in their resolution.

Fuga Island is located at the Philippines’ northwestern border, about 30 kilometers off the Luzon mainland. Along with neighboring Mabbag and Barit islands, Fuga is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport.

According to Bayan Muna, the waters surrounding Fuga are home to telecommunications cables connecting the Philippines with mainland Asia.

Fuga is currently owned by Fuga Island Holdings Inc., whose majority owner is a certain Roger Serafica,  Bayan Muna said, citing Securities and Exchange Commission records.

Records show that in May 2019, Isla Fuga Pacific Resorts Inc., a supposed beneficial leaseholder of Fuga Island Holdings, entered into a separate strategic cooperation agreement with Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp. of Xiamen, China.

Under the memorandum of understanding, a $2-billion “Smart City” will be built on the island, patterned after Fong Zhi’s ongoing megainfrastructure project in China’s Fujian province.


$3.9-B investment

“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,” the Bayan Muna lawmakers said in their resolution.

Grande Island, which is located at the mouth of Subic Bay, was the site of Fort Wint, an American reservation during World War II.

“Even after Grande Island Resort closed down in 2015, the historic fort remained a tourist destination. San Quentin, the oldest known shipwreck, lies between Grande and Chiquita islands,” the lawmakers said.

A coral reef on the west side of Chiquita Island is one of the popular dive spots in Subic.

The islands are just 484 km from Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, according to the lawmakers.

In April 2019, GFTG Property Holdings and Sanya CEDF Sino-Philippine Investment Corp. signed a $298-million deal to develop Grande and Chiquita, Bayan Muna said, citing media reports.

But on Aug. 7, Ceza and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said in separate statements that the deals with China had not yet materialized.

Ceza Administrator and CEO Raul Lambino said Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp. had yet to submit a “concrete” proposal of the $2-billion Smart City, the lawmakers said.

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TAGS: Carlos Isagani Zarate, Chinese investors, Chiquita Island, Eufemia Cullamat, Ferdinand Gaite, Fuga Island, Grande Island, PH islands, PH-China relations
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