MANILA - The Philippine military recently installed 2 sovereign markers near Fuga Island in Aparri town, Cagayan to assert the country's sovereignty.
The markers were placed in prominent areas on the islands of Mabaag and Barit, the Northern Luzon Command said in a statement released on Feb. 18.
They were in addition to 11 markers installed on uninhabited islands located north of Cagayan province last year.
"These islands and their surrounding territorial waters are an integral part of the country's territory. Thus, these markers will help us ensure that our sovereignty will be recognized in these areas," said Commodore Caesar Valencia, commander of Naval Forces Northern Luzon.
In 2019, Fuga Island drew attention over plans of converting it into a commercial zone, with Chinese investors bankrolling the project.
Top Navy officials had cautioned the government against pushing through with the plan, saying it could compromise national security.
The military had said it plans to put up a naval detachment on Fuga Island, which is of great strategic importance to any nation wishing to monitor activity in the northern Philippines.
In August last year, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority allayed concerns that the investment plan was meant to expand Chinese military presence.
CEZA Deputy Administrator Agrimero Cruz had said in a statement that the memorandum of understanding between CEZA and Fong Zhi Enterprises of China had expired without receiving any proposal of investment from the Chinese firm to invest on the island.
According to CEZA, the island group of Fuga, Mabaag and Barit is owned by private entities who offer these properties to investors.
For Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command and concurrently Commander of Area Task Force-North, said "the establishment of these sovereign markers is our proactive way of asserting our sovereignty in the northern maritime territories."
"We give utmost importance to our country's northern maritime territory, as we treat these maritime areas as a significant part of our country," he said.
Burgos vowed to protect the country's northern territory as it is "a key source of livelihood due to its abundant marine resources, and a strategic trading route to boost our economy."
The Philippines and China have unresolved disputes over the West Philippine Sea, Manila's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in near entirety.
China has stepped up militarization and island-building activities in the waters, shunning a July 2016 arbitration ruling invaliding its expansive 9-dash line claim to the resource-rich waters.
FROM THE ARCHIVES