MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday he will check on possible security threats from the planned development of 3 islands backed by China, which could be used as footholds for Chinese activities.
One of the islands, Fuga, is located in the Babuyan archipelago, "a very strategic crossing for our ships," said Lorenzana.
Chiquita and Grande, the 2 other islands, are at the mouth of Subic Bay, where "we are going to park a lot of our capital assets later on," said Lorenzana. The area is also home to a freeport zone and a former US Navy base.
"We don't want anybody monitoring us, that we're not sure if they're with us or for somebody else," the Defense chief told ANC.
"We will ensure that those islands will not be used to spy on us, will not be used for staging point for any adverse action on our interest in Subic Bay," he added.
Lorenzana said he has asked the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority to give him copies of documents concerning the Fuga island development. He will also meet with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority next week about the Chinese-backed projects in Chiquita and Grande.
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.
Hontiveros said the alleged Chinese investors’ plan to develop the three isles could be Beijing’s “creeping annexation” of the Philippines.
“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.
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.
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.
Sen. Leila De Lima has warned that the project "could be the start of a possible colonization," but Lorenzana noted that China does not have territorial claims in Cavite.
"I still believe until proven otherwise, the purpose of those POGOs is just for POGO, not anything else," the defense chief said.
"That is a supposition: that later on, they're going to use it for any adverse actions against us. But now, I don't see that happening," he added.
China earlier this week urged the Philippines to "punish" casinos and offshore gaming firms that illegally employ its nationals here, as it blamed such operations for aiding crimes such as money-laundering.