MANILA — The Philippine Navy said Thursday it hopes to keep its station in Sangley Point, Cavite— a key location in guarding waters contested by China where the provincial government plans to build an airport.
Sangley Point is just 10 kilometers away from the Philippine capital and provides “easy access” for ships patrolling the West Philippine Sea, said Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, the Navy’s flag officer in command.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety, stepping up militarization and island-building activities.
“We are guarding the entrance of Manila. If Manila will fall, the whole country will fall,” he told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
But engineering drawings show that the planned Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) “will occupy the whole of Sangley plus about 75 percent of the Cañacao Bay,” Bacordo said.
The airport will displace the following Navy assets, he said:
- 10,000 sailors and civilian personnel
- 207 office buildings, shipyards, piers, wharfs, airstrips, hangars, depots, communication towers, training sites, hospitals, weather station, filling stations, sports centers, gyms, canteens and barracks
- 738 in-base family dwellings
- 3 schools of 2,300 children, parks, playgrounds, chapels and community halls
“Wala talagang lugar ang Philippine Navy kung saan maglilipat,” the official said. “Ang aming hiling naman na kapag kahit ituloy ang Sangley Point International Airport dito, sana maiwan naman ang Philippine Navy natin dito.”
(There is no place yet where the Philippine Navy can transfer. Our wish is that even if the Sangley Point International Airport pushes through, we stay there.)
The Cavite government should build the airport north of the 1898 Avenue instead of reclaiming the Cañacao Bay so that it could “peacefully co-exist” with the Navy, Bacordo said.
Cavite officials in January invited Navy officials to a dialogue, but their flag officer retired. The coronavirus pandemic then struck, limiting the 2 parties’ talks to teleconferences.
“I’m confident that we can strike out a win-win solution with the Cavite LGU wherein SPIA will exist for the economic progress of the country and the Navy facilities will also exist for national security considerations,” Bacordo said.
“Economic progress and national security should go hand-in-hand,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte last week gave the go-signal for the Sangley Airport project, which state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and Lucio Tan's MacroAsia bagged in 2019.
CCCC is one of 24 firms that the US recently blacklisted for their alleged involvement in Beijing’s militarization projects in the disputed South China Sea.
All the projects of these firms “will continue” in the Philippines because it is “not a vassal state of any foreign power and we will pursue our national interest,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said.
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