House probe on China-backed development of 3 PH isles sought



MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna party-list representatives have filed a resolution seeking a probe into the security implications of Chinese investors’ plan to develop three strategic islands in the northern Philippines.

Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite, in filing House Resolution No. 254, said security concerns on the projects are “even more pressing” with the recent “aggressive” naval and military maneuvers of China in the South China Sea, including the country’s West Philippine Sea territory.

The progressive House members said the chamber should look into the projects’ implications and threats to security, while Sen. Leila de Lima is also calling for the investment plan’s cancellation.

An report bared on Aug. 5 that the islands — Fuga in Cagayan province, and adjacent Grande and Chiquita in Subic Bay, Zambales province — are being targeted for development by Chinese financiers. The areas, however, play significant roles in the country’s national security, according to military officials.

The investment plans were part of the business deals signed by Filipino and Chinese companies on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing in April for the Belt and Road Initiative Forum.

The Philippine Navy had already raised concern over the plans, but the Palace assured that it would block such if found to be a threat to national security.

The Duterte administration has been criticized for setting aside the Philippines’ 2016 victory over China in its claim over nearly the entire resource-rich and strategic waterway.

The President is even set to visit China on Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, the fifth time since he assumed office on June 2016. /je