NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/10 August) – Are the lease agreements with Chinese nationals over some islands in Luzon a done deal or are still being negotiated?
The reports are confusing. But done or still on the negotiation table, it is imperative to review the island lease deals thoroughly to determine their impact on national security.
Reportedly, under the partnership deal with China, a Chinese company has acquired a lease over Fuga island, north of Cagayan Valley, to build an ecohub and tourist resort havens, otherwise known as smart city. The island is along an international shipping lane in the area, where submarine telecommunication cables that link the country to the world are also located.
Also under the partnership deal, Chinese entrepreneurs are, accordingly, going to develop Grande and Chiquita islands in Zambales as tourist destinations. The islands are located in the mouth of Subic Bay, close to a major port and a shipyard.
Because of their strategic location in the mouth of Subic Bay, Grande and Chiquita islands served as lookout-communication posts of the Subic naval base from Spanish to US occupation until the base closure in 1992. The presence of Chinese establishments in the islands may seriously compromise any future plan to develop them and the Subic port into a defense infrastructure in the light of Chinese aggression in West Philippine Sea. Subic Bay is only 260 km to Panatag shoal that the Chinese illegally occupied in 2012.
If the Chinese navy could cruise at will into our territorial waters south of Mindanao sans clearance or permission, with a smart city in Fuga island to protect, there is no reason why it will not send, if not station its naval might around the island and those in Subic. One misunderstanding incident, real or staged, is enough to see Chinese flags rustling near our shores.
Meanwhile, great caution should be taken that the lease of an island by Chinese company will not eventually be taken over by the state of China. Otherwise, China will assert its sovereignty over the company-leased islands.
Lesson should be learned from the tragic experience of the Sulu Sultanate where it granted the British East Indies Company the lease of Sabah, which the company turned over to UK when it folded up. The UK asserted sovereignty over Sabah and did not return it to the Sulu Sultanate but handed it to Malaysia when she granted independence to her colonies in Southeast Asia after WWII.
With their unprovoked aggression in Panatag shoal, in Pag-asa and in our entire exclusive economic zone, the Chinese are definitely not friends but enemies. To allow them to occupy a part of our sovereign territory at this time that we have an unresolved territorial conflict with them, puts us at a great disadvantage, even makes us a fool and a laughing stock. It is mindless.
Indeed, if we are not careful, China will soon gobble our sovereign territory piece by piece, one by one without firing a shot.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)