Panelo says PH can still back out from agreement with China to develop 3 islands

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Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 8) — The agreement with Chinese companies to develop at least three small islands in Luzon is still not final.

"Yung namang agreement, agreement to agree pa lang 'yun," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing Thursday, adding that agreements can still be rescinded.

[Translation: These agreements, they're just agreements to agree.]

Asked about the possible security risk posed by having China develop three islands -- Grande and Chiquita islands in Subic, and Fuga island in Northern Luzon -- Panelo said that he was still contacting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon about it.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said that they want government to reconsider these agreements.

“We believe that as much as we have to look at the economic aspect of it, we should never forget and set aside the security implication that developments may bring to our country, security being our primordial concern,” Arevalo said in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

READ: AFP wants gov’t to reconsider Chinese development on 3 strategic Luzon islands

The agreements pertaining to these islands were signed during President Rodrigo Duterte's trip to China last April to attend the Belt and Road Initiative Forum.

The agreement to develop Grande and Chiquita Islands were signed between the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, GFTG Property Holdings and the Sanya CEDF Sino-Philippine Investment Corporation.

The agreement to develop Fuga island was signed on the sidelines of the forum between the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Fong Zhi Enterprise orp., and the Isla Fuga Resort, Inc.

READ: 19 business deals signed during Duterte's trip to China

Minority Senator Risa Hontiveros filed on Thursday a resolution seeking for a Senate probe onto these investments.

"These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security,” Hontiveros said, calling the move a "creeping annexation."