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Kalayaan town harbor nears completion
The twin construction activities are now going on unhampered despite the presence of Chinese militia ships near the island town that also doubles as an outpost for Filipino soldiers.
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Kalayaan town harbor nears completion

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Construction of a safe harbor in Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys is nearing completion while the military’s building of a separate beaching ramp that can accommodate navy cargo ships has resumed.

The twin construction activities are now going on unhampered despite the presence of Chinese militia ships near the island town that also doubles as an outpost for Filipino soldiers.

“Boulders and slabs from mainland Palawan have been unloaded by cargo vessels early this week. The safe harbor is nearing completion as the contractor wants to complete the project soon,” a local resident said.

He added unloading of construction materials needed for the completion of the safe harbor went on smoothly.

The military’s private contractor Luzviminda Construction firm returned to the island town without hassle to resume construction of the Navy’s beaching ramp.

The ramp will accommodate navy cargo ships that unload construction materials needed for the repair of military facilities, including the unpaved Rancudo Airfield.

“They’re still out there and perhaps monitoring what’s going in the island,” he said, referring to the Chinese fishing vessels.

Earlier, the military reported that Chinese fishing boats – suspected to be militia vessels in disguise – were stationary and not harassing Filipino fishermen.

“Based on our reports, they’re not engaged in any harassment. There’s no harassment of Filipino fishermen,” Capt. Jason Ramon, spokesman for the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom), said.

While Filipino fishermen are being encouraged to fish near Pag-asa Island, most of them only go to the island to replenish their water supply, as fishing in the waters around the island is no longer commercially viable as the corals in the surrounding waters are already dead.

Ramon gave assurance that Wescom is continuously monitoring the entry and presence of the Chinese fishing boats inside the country’s Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

From January until this month, he said, Wescom has monitored a total of 275 Chinese fishing boats near Pag-asa. The island town is only 12 nautical miles from the Chinese occupied Zamora (Subi) reef, now a highly militarized island.

As they await completion of a safe harbor, residents are also wondering about the whereabouts of the town’s own boat, M/T Queen Seagull.

The wooden-hulled Queen Seagull is the workhorse of the local government in the island town – transporting people and supplies to and from mainland Palawan.

“We don’t know now where our M/T Queen Seagull is. The last time we know its engine bogged down. Even our utility boat here is no longer operational and the town’s power generator is also not functioning,” he said.

Local residents are currently relying on the military for their electricity needs as the island power generator has conked out.

Invasion

While residents of the island town have become accustomed to the presence of Chinese vessels around them, Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Florin Hilbay said it should be a cause for worry as their presence is tantamount to an invasion.

“Let me just point out that Pag-asa is a territory currently occupied by the Philippines and it has its own territorial sea. That is why the entry of Chinese vessels within the territory of Pag-asa is an invasion because those are territorial waters,” the former solicitor general said. – With Helen Flores, Cecille Suerte Felipe

BEACHING RAMP LUZVIMINDA CONSTRUCTION PAG-ASA ISLAND PALAWAN PHILIPPINE NAVY
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