Communist guerrillas in the Philippines have trained their sights on Chinese state-owned firms building infrastructure and military bases in the country, projects that have the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has ordered its military wing, the New People’s Army, to target firms involved in the construction of seven Chinese military bases in the West Philippines Sea (the eastern parts of the South China Sea that are part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone).
The CPP claims the projects violate Philippine sovereignty and destroy marine resources within its exclusive economic zone, according to a statement.
While no names were mentioned, these Chinese firms are understood to be state-owned dredging, shipbuilding, and infrastructure companies, blacklisted by the United States for constructing over 3,000 acres of artificial islands for China’s military deployment in the South China Sea.
The CPP blamed Duterte for also awarding these firms “big-ticket infrastructure projects” for the construction of mining roads and dams that encroached ancestral lands of minorities and forests.
“These infrastructure projects not only displace thousands of peasants and minorities from their lands, they also wreak havoc to the natural ecosystem of the country’s remaining,” the CPP said.
The CPP severed ties with the Chinese Communist Party in the 1980s and is Asia’s longest-running rebel group operating throughout the Philippines.
Duterte Cracks Down on Terrorists
President Duterte declared the communist rebel terrorists in July, saying the country’s new Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 would tackle the group, especially those involved in bombing attacks on the public.
“’If you do that to the people, if you kill them wantonly, then I will take it as a right to kill you,” he said in a public address in July.
“Why? Because I spent most of my days as a President trying to figure out and connect with them on how we can arrive at a peaceful solution (to the rebellion),” he continued.
Last year, the New People’s Army marked the 50th anniversary of its founding with an attack on a police patrol in the northern Mountain Province that killed one policeman.
That same year, communist insurgents ambushed and killed four policemen, who were traveling on motorcycles in the coastal town of Ayungon.
A series of bombings also took place in Jolo, Philippines, where suicide bombers of radical Islamic militant group, Abu Sayyaf, attacked military camps and churches, leaving dozens dead and wounded.
Beijing’s Looming Presence
Meanwhile, Duterte has repeatedly played down concerns of China’s expanding economic and military influence in the Philippines, as he pushes ahead with his “Build Build Build” scheme aimed to spur economic growth.
“It’s really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America …,” Duterte said in reference to Chinese military equipment in the region.
“Just ignore the missiles there, it’s not intended for us,” the president quipped at an event attended by Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
The president also joked about making the Philippines a province of China, as he downplayed Beijing’s use of Chinese names for undersea features in the Pacific belonging to the Philippines.
“If you want, you can make us a province, like Fujian. Province of the Philippines, Republic of China.”
Recently, Duterte came under fire for green-lighting several multi-billion dollars of investment from China, deals which his administration claimed to “advance national interest.”
Projects approved in September include a $10.2 billion deal for China Communications Construction Company (a spearhead of the Belt and Road Initiative) to build an international airport in Manila. Another deal granted China-backed Dito Telecommunity to build cell towers inside military camps.
“I think it’s very dumb of us to allow those towers to be installed inside military camps,” said retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in an interview with CNN Philippines, last month.
“Just imagine, putting a tower inside of the military camp—and the equipment, all those chips on these towers are made in China, they can just put in spy firmware, the software come from China,” he added.
The CPP guerrilla group claimed these big-ticket infrastructure projects exposed “bureaucratic criminal operations” by Duterte’s administration such as bribery, funds diversion and the setting up of shell companies to run China-funded infrastructure projects.
“Duterte must be put to task for colluding with the Chinese government and big Chinese companies in plundering the country’s resources and allowing China to gain greater control of the commanding heights of the country’s economy,” it said.