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Amid plans of Chinese-backed airport

PH Navy nixes proposal to leave Sangley Point

11:55 AM January 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy said it will maintain its presence in Sangley Point in Cavite amid the prospect of a Chinese-backed international airport project.

The proposed alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is close to vital Philippine air and naval bases, including the Philippine Fleet, Naval Installations Command and the Naval Sea Systems Command.

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Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said he had opposed to the proposal to evict the naval bases at Sangley Point.

“I objected to the plan that the Navy will vacate the area kasi andun ang piers natin eh (because our piers are there). I always believe that the Navy should be present here in Manila because the seat of the government is here,” Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday.

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“Isipin mo if pupunta sa Subic or Cebu at magka-problema dito, paano makakarating ng mabilis dito? If our ships are there in Sangley, we can immediately act if there’s a crisis dito (Imagine, if we move to Subic or Cebu and there will be a problem here, how can we get here fast? If our ships are there in Sangley, we can if immediately act if there’s a crisis here),” he said.

A former US base until the early 1970s, Sangley Point currently houses vital Philippine military bases. Its strategic location near Manila Bay had also made it a prime naval facility even during the time of Spanish colonization.

Security concerns

The consortium composed of state-owned China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) and tycoon Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. was the lone bidder for the Cavite government’s plan to build the P500 billion Sangley Point International Airport.

Previous news reports said that the Chinese state-owned CCCC was debarred from 2011 to 2017 by the World Bank for alleged fraudulent practices in a Philippine construction project. One of its subsidiaries had also helped to build China’s artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Some active and retired Philippine security officials have earlier raised alarm over the potential involvement of a Chinese state-owned company in a strategic location.

To allay security concerns, Empedrad said they would boost their capabilities to counter Chinese espionage fears.

“If ever there are Chinese facilities there, ang pino-problema is ma-spy ang Navy na nakadikit ‘dun. Edi palakasin din namin yung aming information technology, our cyber capability para sila ang mabantayan (If ever there are Chinese facilities there, one of the challenges is the Navy could get spied on because it’s nearby. We need to boost our information technology, cyber capability so we can keep track of them),” he said.

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TAGS: Philippine Fleet, Philippine Navy, Sangley. Point
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