Phil. Navy chief asserts PH control of Fuga island as Duterte gives go-signal to develop navy detachment

A naval detachment will soon be erected on Fuga Island, part of the Babuyan Group of Islands in the northernmost part of Luzon, as the Philippine Navy (PN) tries to extinguish resurfacing rumors that Chinese businessmen want to take control of the area.

Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, PN Flag Officer in Command, said it was President Duterte himself who permitted the Navy to develop a portion of Fuga Island.

"Our presence there is an assurance enough that Fuga Island will not be under the control of the Chinese," Bacordo emphasized.

"The President is very specific that the Navy will be given a 20-hectare area Fuga Island for the development of a navy detachment," he disclosed.

A Philippine Marine Corps station has been established on the island to constitute and execute the Navy's plan of building a detachment.

Bacordo said part of the soon-to-be naval detachment will be a littoral monitoring station, a sheltered pier, and a fenced area among others.

Reports about a possible Chinese takeover on Fuga Island floated in November 2019 when the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) entered into an agreement with Fujian-based company, Fong Zhi Enterprise.

The Chinese company reportedly wanted to develop Fuga Island into a "smart city" but concerns were raised that it might be a disguise to militarise the island. The Department of National Defense had urged the CEZA to reconsider its plans.

Bacordo said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between CEZA and the Chinese enterprise did not materialize.

"That MOA with the Chinese business group has already expired. I would like to believe that it will not happen," he said.

Asserting the country's sovereignty, the Northern Luzon Command's Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) conducted a flag-raising ceremony on Fuga Island last August 8.

There is also an ongoing installation project of flag markers and lighthouses in nearby areas like Cagayan, Batanes and Babuyan Group of Islands.

Fuga Island, which has access to the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, was recently known for the existence of an airfield, according to the NFNL.

It is also significantly close to fiber optic cables that connect the country to mainland Asia, a key to the country's push for better Internet and communication infrastructure, the NFNL added.