The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) said yesterday that the Philippine Navy is building a naval station in one portion of the 10,000-hectare Fuga Island.
CEZA Deputy Administrator Agrimero Cruz revealed that they signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Navy as he belied claims that China is acquiring and militarizing Fuga Island disguised as development of a “Smart City” which CEZA allegedly entered into an agreement with Fong Zhi Enterprise based in Fujian.
“We are fully aware of the fact that the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) 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 explained.
Cruz who is a retired PNP general maintained that it is only during the term of Secretary Raul Lambino as Administrator and CEO that CEZA has been proactively engaging and supportive of the country’s military tactical needs and requirements to safeguard the country’s northern frontier.
On November 14, 2019, CEZA entered into a MOA with the Philippine Navy that formalized the plan to build a naval detachment on Fuga Island, one of the three islands of Aparri, Cagayan.
These islands together with the whole municipality of Santa Ana, Cagayan comprise the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport.
Cruz also addressed the MOU with the Chinese firm Fong Zhi, which he said is more of an expression of the parties’ intent to explore investment opportunities in Fuga Island and is subject to more tedious processes of project feasibility studies, environmental impact assessment and master planning and further subject to judicious vetting of the proposal prior to the approval of the CEZA Board of Directors.
A CEZA official also explained that Isla Fuga Pacific Resort Inc., a Filipino corporation that owns the island, signed an MOU with Fong Zhi for the lease and potential investments in the area while the CEZA-Fong Zhi MOU was more for the oversight of the development that its overall plan conforms with the plans of PEZA for tourism.
“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 clarified.
Cruz further said that the MOU with Fong Zhi has already effectively lapsed and to date, CEZA has not received any other proposal for investment in Fuga island.
Aside from the Philippine Navy interest in Fuga, Cruz also cited of a similar Memorandum of Agreement that CEZA forged with the Philippine Air Force last July 2018 for the usufruct of 10-hectare property at the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) in Lallo, Cagayan for the establishment of an air force forward base.
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 these enterprises 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, said Cruz. Fuga is just an hour away to Hong Kong by plane and 2 to 3 hours from Aparri by pumpboat but could just be 15 minutes by fast track. There are only around 800 inhabitants in the island, which is suited for tourism development.