Thursday, August 8, 2019

No to China 'smart cities' on our islets

August being Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month), I am using a second byline written in “baybayin,” one of several writing systems used by our ancestors before the age of colonization that nearly obliterated many of our ancient practices and bodies of knowledge.
At last, at last, the China-enamored Duterte administration might be waking up (is it?) to the reality that China’s “slow-by-slow” takeover of territories we claim as ours is indeed happening, if not becoming alarming.

Different from outright intrusions/seizures/takeovers as what happened in several areas in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese from mainland China are eyeing with beady eyes several islands that are not in so-called disputed waters, but islands that are in fact on the Philippine land map—this time, not by actual seizure but in the guise of business and development.
Last May, I did write about this worrisome development (“Chinese takeover of Fuga Island?” 5/09/2019) in this space after I read a joyous-sounding announcement in the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) website that said: “Chinese firm invests $2B on Cagayan isle.”

That “Cagayan isle” is Fuga Island, located north of mainland Luzon, that could become an exclusive domain of China, its special enclave and playground, a dream isle of Chinese investors and more. I did say that without our knowing it, the island could slowly slip away from us, be lost forever and become a forbidden “smart city” for Filipinos.
A dystopian scenario? Not at all. But I thought it was a lost cause and was about to raise my hands in surrender.

Then, two days ago, the Inquirer bannered: “Chinese investors target 3 PH islands.” It was an alarum. The story was by Frances Mangosing. The Chinese investors were not only targeting Fuga Island, but also Grande and Chiquita Islands in Zambales. These places “are to be developed into economic and tourism zones as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, raising concerns among Philippine security officials,” the page 1 blurb said.

That gave me a joskolord moment. Alarmed, I thought of Palaui Island off Cagayan and some other outlying islands that we could lose. And whyever not?
The supposed $2-billion “smart city” on Fuga Island was to be constructed under a memorandum of understanding between the Ceza and the Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp.
Fuga Island is part of the Babuyan group of islands that lies between Cagayan province and the Batanes group of islands. Fuga is part of the mainland town of Aparri, Cagayan, while the rest in the Babuyan group belong to the island town of Calayan. Fuga is now a coveted place because of its proximity to Sta. Ana, Cagayan, where Ceza is.
The Ceza announcement said: “Secretary Raul Lambino, Ceza administrator and chief executive officer, said the project would be patterned after the firm’s ongoing mega-infrastructure project in Fujian province in China. The investment is part of $3.9 (billion) worth of commitment investments made at the sidelines of the recently concluded 2nd Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing.”On the other hand, Chiquita and Grande Islands, the Inquirer story said, served as key defenses of Spain and the United States during their years as colonizers.
Now that alarm bells have been rung, there seems to be a turnaround. Navy officials are concerned. Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his office had not been consulted on the security implications of such “Chinese investment.”
“Investment” it is, indeed, not only of the business kind, but an investment that is more alarming. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has been busy and pettily charging two religious sisters and other human rights workers with perjury. Why doesn’t he train his energies instead on the islands that the Chinese are eyeing to turn into “smart cities”? He should begin to spell and pronounce the word “sinofication.”
S-I-N-O-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N. Will our senators find it in themselves to look into this matter of national concern? #