De Lima to Duterte: Scrap deals with Chinese firms in key PH islands

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the development of 3 Philippine islands by Chinese firms. 

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 93 on Wednesday, August 14, in response to the Chinese firms' plans to develop 3 islands in the northern Philippines: Fuga in Cagayan, and Grande and Chiquita in Subic Bay, Zambales.

The senator filed the resolution a week after the Philippine military expressed concern over the plan, noting that the islands were strategic and their development by Chinese firms could "compromise" Philippine security. (READ: Philippine military warns on Chinese investment in key islands)

“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," De Lima said.

“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 added.

On August 6, the military through its spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo urged the  government should study the security implications of handing over the islands to foreign entities. 

De Lima's resolution specified two agreements regarding the developments.

The first agreement, confirmed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, is with Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corporation to develop a $2-billion Smart City in Fuga Island. 

The second is with GFTG Property Holdings and Sanya CEDF Sino-Philippine Investment Corporation, which forged a $298-million project to develop the Grande and Chiquita islands under the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Military and defense officials said they were not consulted about these plans.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said that the island investments were "mere plans" and that the Philippines may opt to cancel if they were found to be threats to national security.

Economic ties have improved between the Philippines and China under President Duterte, who set aside the Philippines' 2016 victory over China in the West Philippine Sea before an international court, when he was elected into office. (READ: Philippines loses to China 3 years after Hague ruling)

This has led to an influx of Chinese investment in the country, particularly with offshore gaming firms that cater to China, causing many Chinese workers to move to the Philippines. – Rappler.com