The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority on Tuesday denied reports it is allowing China’s rumored occupation of Fuga Island in the guise of creating a smart city in the Island.
CEZA Deputy Administrator Agrimero Cruz said the island is known as an area with potential for investments and as a strategic site for disaster response.
He explained that the smart city project, a collaboration with Fujian-based Fong Zhi Enterprise, might have been misconstrued as a cover for China’s exercise of military expansion in the Babuyan Channel.
“We would like to correct the misconception attributed to CEZA’s memorandum of understanding with Fong Zhi Enterprises of China. CEZA’s MOUs with foreign investors are mere marketing tools, with short-lived effectivity of six months and are purely non-binding instruments as specifically provided in its terms,” he said.
The MOU with Fong Zhi was more of an expression of the parties’ intent to explore investment opportunities in Fuga Island.
Like any project, it will be subjected to more tedious processes of project feasibility studies, environmental impact assessment and master planning and will also undergo judicious vetting prior to the approval of the CEZA Board of Directors, Cruz said.
“That MOU with Fong Zhi has already effectively lapsed and to date, CEZA has not received any other proposal for investment in Fuga island,” he said.
He added that Fuga and its adjacent islands of Mabbag and Barit are owned by private entities who offer these properties to foreign investors for investment opportunities.
CEZA, as the authority mandated by law to manage and supervise the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, registers and oversees the operations of investing companies to ensure that they operate within the ambit of and for the purposes provided under the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 or Republic Act No. 7922.
“We are fully aware of the fact that the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport is geographically configured in a very strategic location not only in terms of economic investment viability but more so in
terms of national security and disaster response especially in the Northern Philippines,” Cruz said.
A retired police general, Cruz informed that it was during this current term of CEZA administrator and CEO Raul Lambino that the agency started to proactively engage and support the country’s military tactical strategy to safeguard the country’s northern frontier.
In November 14, 2019 CEZA entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Navy to build a naval detachment on Fuga Island, one of the three islands in Aparri, Cagayan. These islands together with the whole municipality of Santa Ana, Cagayan comprise the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport.
Cruz also cited a memorandum of agreement signed with the Philippine Air Force in July 2018 to use the 10-hectare property at the Cagayan North International Airport in Lallo, Cagayan for the establishment of an air force forward base.