AFP: Mavulis Island secure from foreign poachers

Victor Martin - The Philippine Star
AFP: Mavulis Island secure from foreign poachers
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made the declaration as government troops hoisted the Philippine flag at the island’s highest peak following the completion of a fisherman’s shelter last week.
Victor Martin

BASCO, Batanes  , Philippines  —  Mavulis Island, the uninhabited and northernmost island of the country, is now secure from foreign poachers.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made the declaration as government troops hoisted the Philippine flag at the island’s highest peak following the completion of a fisherman’s shelter last week.

The shelter, also known as the Mavulis Project, was formally turned over by AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) to the provincial government of Batanes last Monday.

Mavulis is located 38 kilometers from Itbayat of the Batanes group of islands.

Fishermen from Itbayat are known to avoid Mavulis due to the presence of foreign poachers.

To assert sovereignty over the island, troops placed an oversized Philippine flag, measuring two meters by three meters, made of tough weatherproof fiberglass.

Aside from the newly repaired flagpole and reinstalled flag on top of the island, Nolcon commander Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat said the installation of a fiberglass Philippine flag on the cliff of the island will also serve as the country’s northern boundary marker.

The government hoisted the first Philippine flag in the island in May 2016 but the flagpole was damaged by typhoon in September 2016. It was repaired in 2017 but was again damaged by a strong storm in 2018.

During the turnover ceremonies last Monday, Salamat led the troops with PBA party-list Rep. Jerico Jonas Nograles in climbing the rocky mountain and slippery cliffs to reach the summit where the Philippine flag was hoisted.

Salamat said he nearly passed out during their tough climb but insisted on reaching the summit, where he led other officials in singing the national anthem.

“To give my final salute and to sing the national anthem before the Philippine flag at the northernmost part of the country before my retirement is history on my part as a military man,” Salamat said.

Salamat said the construction of the shelter started in 2018. Soldiers and other volunteers found it difficult to complete the task of building the shelter due to inclement weather and the island’s remoteness.

Also known as the Y’ami Island or Dihami, meaning north by the locals, the 2.2-square kilometer Mavulis Island is located more than 280 kilometers off the northern coast of Luzon mainland and less than 150 kilometers from the southern tip of Taiwan.

Mavulis Island is located in Balintang Channel, a strategic passage used by foreign and local vessels crossing the waterway of the South China Sea to the Pacific Ocean. 

Mang Samuel, a 48-year-old fisherman from Itbayat, said before the construction of the Mavulis project, they were forced to land on the island to seek shelter from storms.

“Reaching this place (Mavulis) is only for the bravest because we are aware that coming here is not easy, sometimes, we stayed at the island’s caves for a week during typhoons or because of bad weather, no water or no food, and we always encounter foreign poacher here, but now, we feel secure because of these projects from our government,” Samuel said.

Nolcom information officer Maj. Ericson Bolusan said the one-room fishermen’s shelter can accommodate at least 20 people. It is equipped with dining area, living room, kitchen, comfort room with complete appliances and amenities.

The shelter has its own solar power facility donated by the One Meralco Foundation to provide electricity to the entire island and a desalination plant for potable water.

A dual-purpose area was provided as helipad and as fish drying section.

Marcelo Bumidang of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Batanes said the island is rich with different century plants species popularly used in making bonsai.

Bumidang said they will ensure close monitoring to protect biodiversity on the island.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) yesterday said they might have to suspend their routine patrol at the West Philippine Sea whenever they would encounter strong typhoons. 

PCG commandant Elson Hermogino said they are currently conducting “irregular patrols” at the West Philippine Sea.

Once the rainy season begins where there would be strong typhoons, “we would always prioritize the safety and life of our personnel and property so we would stop our patrol. If the weather permits, then we would (resume) conduct of our patrol operations,” Hermogino said.         – With Evelyn Macairan



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