MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) to set aside a portion of Fuga Island in Cagayan province for use as a base by the Philippine Navy.
On Monday (Aug. 10), Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Navy chief, told INQUIRER.net that Duterte gave the order last Aug. 6 to allocate 20 hectares on the strategically-located island “for a naval detachment.”
Navy personnel held a flag-raising ceremony with island residents over the weekend amid new reports of Chinese investments being funnelled to the island.
Last week, Ceza issued a statement denying that Chinese investors were planning to take over the 10,000-hectare island located in the country’s second northernmost island group.
Ceza belied reports that China is setting its sights on Fuga to acquire and militarize it. Ceza said there are no current investment proposals on Fuga.
Juan Ponce Enrile, former senator and Cagayan native, also issued a statement warning against letting China set foot on Fuga.
“It is like a dagger pointed at the very heart of the country,” Enrile said.
“If it falls into the hands of a foreign power with immense global ambition to achieve and great national interest to preserve, it will certainly cause the country a very serious and dangerous security problem,” he said.
If China were to gain a foothold on Fuga, Enrile said the island could be used to control the entire Balintang Channel, the maritime border between the Philippines and Taiwan, a country that China claims to be its province and could be planning to occupy.
In 2019, Ceza entered into a memorandum of understanding with Chinese company Fong Zhi Enterprise for the development of the island into a $2B-“smart city.” It was one of the deals secured by Ceza on the sidelines of Duterte’s visit to China that year.
The potential deal, however, did not move forward. The Philippine Navy had raised concerns that it could compromise national security.
A few months after Fuga Island caught the attention of the public, the Philippine Navy signed a memorandum of agreement with Ceza allowing the Navy to build a base on the island.
The Fuga Island group is composed of three islands—Fuga, Mabbag and Barit—all of which are part of Aparri in Cagayan.
Fuga, with a population of about 2,500, is a coastal town in the Babuyan archipelago, which has access to both Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.
It is privately-owned by Isla Fuga Pacific Resort Inc. and is only being managed by Ceza.