MANILA - Minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into a reported plan to develop 3 "strategic" Philippine islands with the help of Chinese financiers.
The Philippine Navy earlier raised alarm over reported Chinese development on Fuga Island, Chiquita Island, and Grande Island.
Fuga is located in the Babuyan archipelago, found at the northern tip of the Philippines, while Chiquita and Grande are located at the mouth of Subic Bay, once home to an American military base.
Hontiveros said the alleged Chinese investors’ plan to develop the three isles could be Beijing’s “creeping annexation” of the Philippines.
Her proposed Senate Resolution No. 74, filed last August 6, said the government must look into the strategic security implications of the development of the three isles by Chinese investors.
“Amid China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, it is baffling that the Duterte government allowed this to happen,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
The Philippines has unresolved disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China, which Beijing claims in near entirety.
“These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security.”
Waters surrounding Fuga Island, located in the northwest, is home to telecommunications cables. It also served as a jump-off point for troops during World War II, Navy spokesperson Capt. Jonathan Zata earlier said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his office was "not also consulted when it was offered to the Chinese for development into a tourist destination."
POGO ISLAND IN CAVITE?
Hontiveros also raised alarm over the reported plan to develop the 32-hectare Island Cove Resort property in Kawit, Cavite into a Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) complex with housing facilities for an estimated 20,000 foreign workers.
She said the Chinese investments are “unsettling,” as this puts the country's military and national security in a vulnerable position.
“We look to the Senate to rise to the occasion and to seek the truth. We hope that the investigation is conducted through the lens of Filipino values that uphold our integrity, sovereignty and dignity," Hontiveros said.
“May we never trade our dignity and sovereignty for investments. May the price paid for development and progress never be the Filipinos ourselves.”
Island Cove is around 3.5 kilometers from the Danilo Atienza Air Base, home of the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing, and Naval Base Heracleo Alano, containing the Naval Sea System Command which operates the Armed Forces’ largest industrial complex.
The country has seen the arrival of thousands of Chinese workers with the growth of the POGO industry, which has flourished because gambling is illegal in China and heavily opposed by its Communist government.
As of latest count, Pagcor has authorized the operation of 55 POGO operators, but only around 50 are reportedly operating due to lack of capital.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon recently said the influx of Chinese nationals in the country was a "security risk."
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, called for an end to the practice of issuing visas to Chinese visitors upon arrival in the country, instead of requiring them to secure visas from Philippine missions overseas.