An economic slump is making government eager for new investments. But the risk is real.
Critics of a Chinese company’s proposed investment on Fuga Island renewed warnings against the project amid an economic slump that has made the government eager for new investments.
Fuga is a 10,00-hectare private island with pristine white beaches and about 2,000 residents. It is part of the country’s second northernmost group of islands, which includes Barangay Fuga in Aparri town in Cagayan, where Chinese companies also operate offshore gambling.
The island has its own 1,300-meter dirt airstrip and is also accessible by boat – 2-3 hours – from Claveria town. It’s owned by Fuga Island Holdings Inc and falls under the jurisdiction of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Critics are concerned that a proposed $2-billion investment of Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corporation to build a “smart city” there is actually intended to turn the island into a naval base for Beijing and compromise the country’s security.
“Considering the ill-effects of the COVID-19 virus on the domestic economy, local businesses sitting on properties fronting the West Philippine Sea or important sea lanes are right now vulnerable. These types of investments pose a threat considering that they are targeted at real estate properties critical to our national security interests,” said former Philippine Navy Vice Commander retired Vice Admiral Rommel Jude Ong.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the Philippines into recession as the economy shrank by 16.5% in the 2nd quarter of 2020.
Focus has recently been on Fuga, but Ong said the same concern applies to proposed investments on Grande and Chiquita islands in Subic Bay, Zambales and plans for Chinese participation in the Sangley Airport project.
‘DON’T FIXATE ON WEST PH SEA ALONE’
Controlling Fuga island would complement Beijing’s efforts to secure dominance over multi-billion trade routes along the Strait of Luzon all the way to the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea, critics said. (READ: Balancing or capitulation? Duterte ban on West PH Sea drills leaves gap in global move to curb China)
They warned that it is not only a strategic problem for the Philippines but also for Taiwan, located north of the Philippines, which is also fighting military provocations from Beijing.
“We should not be fixated on the events in the South China Sea alone. The more pressing challenge is the need to protect our resources inland from Chinese investments in our strategic real estate,” said Ong.
The defense establishment had sought a review of the investment and echoed concerns raised by critics. A naval detachment has since been erected on Fuga Island and a naval station will follow.