Navy chief: Celebration near Spratlys not aimed at China
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2014 - 11:26am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy's 116th anniversary celebration at its base in Ulugan Bay in Palawan province on Tuesday was not intended to taunt China, the country's rival claimant over parts of the South China Sea.

Navy flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus Millan said in a state news report Sunday that the celebration at the naval installation facing the disputed sea is part of the government's plan to upgrade it and at the same time uplift the personnel's morale.

"What we are doing there is [part] of our obligation to develop our facilities there to accomplish [the Navy's] mission and improve the morale of our men," Millan explained, denying reports that the move is linked with the growing Chinese presence in Philippine-claimed waters.

Puerto Princesa City's Ulugan Bay, estimated to be around 100 nautical miles from the hotly contested Spratlys Islands, is eyed to become the homeport of the Armed Forces' new frigates BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, as well as upcoming strategic sealift vessels.

Millan said the upcoming event in Ulugan Bay is to emphasize the need to develop it with an earmarked P500-million fund. President Aquino is also set to grace the celebration.

"It is our commitment really to sustain our units in the field so that they can carry out their mandated roles," he added.

He said, however, that the upgrade of the naval facility is "strategic" and would bring benefits to the country's security.

Earlier this month, the Philippine Navy also said that impending improvements on Ulugan Bay should not be "misinterpreted" as a counter-move against China.

"In the first place, we have an existing facility there, the headquarters of the [Naval Forces West], and a P500-million fund has been programmed for its development," Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

The bay sits beside Oyster Bay, which Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said to likely become host to American forces under the recently forged Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

ARMED FORCES EMMANUEL BAUTISTA ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT GREGORY FABIC MILLAN NAVAL FORCES WEST OYSTER BAY PHILIPPINE NAVY PRESIDENT AQUINO ULUGAN BAY
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