Romualdez visits Pag-asa, eyes P3 billion for airport, port

Ghio Ong, Michael Punongbayan, Pia Lee-Brago, Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Romualdez visits Pag-asa, eyes P3 billion for airport, port
“Well initially, just for the airport and the reclamation here, we’re looking at a budget of at least P3 billion for the airport reclamation extension, which coincides with the naval port and fishing sanctuary,” he said.
Philstar.com / Jovannie Lambayan

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is aiming to allocate P3 billion for “development projects” in Pag-asa in the town of Kalayaan in Palawan.

Speaker Martin Romualdez made this commitment following a visit to the remote town in the West Philippine Sea accompanied by some congressmen and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Well initially, just for the airport and the reclamation here, we’re looking at a budget of at least P3 billion for the airport reclamation extension, which coincides with the naval port and fishing sanctuary,” he said.

Romualdez also gave assurance that Pag-asa Island will have its share of confidential funds that the House is planning to realign from some agencies whose mandate is not directly related to protecting national security.

“A portion of it, that initially has been decided to be allocated, will be put in. Beyond that, we are thinking of having higher funds for this island … Definitely, support is on the way,” he noted. “There is a possibility of putting up a naval wharf right here and repair this port as well… It’s really better to have projects for development and improvement of the Pag-asa Island facilities.”

He said the island could even be developed as a tourist destination like Maldives. “So we shall invite everyone to come and visit. But we shall develop the facilities here, the airport, the seaport and the other facilities within the Kalayaan Island group,” he added.

For his part, AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has expressed his gratitude to the House “for recognizing the need to strengthen the nation’s defense resources after their visit to Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.”

“The name of the game in the (WPS) is effective presence. It means whoever is there has control of that specific area,” he said.

Brawner added there is an “ongoing need for development” not only on Pag-asa Island but also on the other Filipino-occupied features in the WPS.


Chinese ships apparently came close to patrol vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) accompanying two other ships that brought supplies during a tension-filled resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal last Oct. 4.

A China Coast Guard (CCG) ship with body number 21156 tried to block PCG patrol vessel BRP Sindangan and separate it from two resupply ships Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 2 some 10 miles away from Ayungin Shoal, according to a report from GMA News.

The CCG vessel then came close to BRP Sindangan, which GMA News described was “more or less three meters away from Sindangan’s bow.” It noted the former could have turned off its engine.

Also, two Chinese maritime militia vessels sailed alongside BRP Sindangan “just in front of it.” A Chinese navy ship also came “as close as 800 meters” to the Philippine vessel.

Meanwhile, another PCG patrol ship, BRP Cabra, was “surrounded” by a CCG vessel and three Chinese maritime militia vessels, while an “unidentified aircraft” flew over them.

The Chinese and Philippine authorities also threw radio challenges at each other. The PCG said it is “conducting lawful maritime patrol within the Philippine exclusive economic zone,” while China said it would allow “food and other living materials” to be brought to the “illegal” vessel, presumably referring to BRP Sierra Madre, “in the spirit of humanism.”

Case vs China

Filing a case against China’s coercive behavior and large-scale destruction of corals within its exclusive economic zone is an option, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Thursday.

“Our position has always been that taking a case, taking a country to a tribunal is always an option. Certainly before taking or undertaking a case against a particular country and bring it to a tribunal will obviously require thorough study and consideration of all these aspects including foreign policy implications,” Manalo said over CNN Philippines.

He explained that filing a diplomatic protest is the most common tool used in foreign office diplomacy to raise on record an issue and indicate the country’s position. But there are other measures, including summoning the party concerned that could be an office or ambassador or making a demarche at the foreign ministry of the country concerned and other mechanisms in the South China Sea.

The secretary said various agencies are still working on the new Philippine map that will be released. “I’ve been looking at preparations. Let me assure whatever map will be consistent with UNCLOS,” Manalo said.

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