Cagayan governor seeks stronger ties with Beijing
MANILA, Philippines — Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba seeks stronger cooperation with China, which had earlier questioned the expansion of access by the United States to military bases in the Philippines including those in his province.
Mamba — who also opposes the inclusion of Cagayan as part of the new locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States — said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China could “work in harmony and govern our affairs without outside interference” in areas of poverty, climate change and economic inequality.
“I have always believed that neighbors cannot be enemies, otherwise you will never feel safe in your own home,” he said at the Asean-China conference on sustainable development in Hangzhou, China, on May 24.
Mamba led a 13-member delegation from his province composed of local officials representing six municipalities and one city, “with the intention of establishing stronger economic and cultural relations” with Beijing, he said.
“I strongly believe that part of this sustainable development is the promotion of peace in our part of the region. Cagayan, our province, does not want war nor do we want to be used by other countries…. As Cagayanos, we want to strengthen our bond with you,” Mamba said.
‘Stoking the fire’
The governor has been vocal in opposing the inclusion of Cagayan—located at the country’s northeastern tip of mainland Luzon facing Taiwan — as among the new Edca sites under the 2014 agreement of defense and security cooperation between Manila and Washington.
He said this could drag the province into a US-China conflict over Taiwan, the self-governing island which Beijing claims as its own territory.
China, which has stepped up its aggression in the South China Sea and over Taiwan, had accused the Philippines of “stoking the fire” of regional tension when it granted the US access to four new sites under Edca. President Marcos, however, had said that these additional locations were not intended for “offensive action” against any country.
‘Asia for Asians’
The Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana town and the Cagayan North International Airport in Lal-lo town in Mamba’s province were earlier identified as among the four new sites under the expanded Edca, which allows Washington to build facilities and preposition assets in some strategically located military bases in the country.
“In these times of global tensions, it is more important than ever to emphasize the values that guide our actions and aspirations. Among these values are the principles of peace, community, self-governance, and cooperation,” Mamba said.“We have taken the mantra ‘Asia for Asians.’ We want to count on our own strength and resources in pursuit of sustainable development with you, our neighbors,” he said.
“Together, let’s establish a peaceful community of Asians working together to build a strong regional economy taking care of our own backyard without outside interference,” he also said.