Zubiri to ask telcos: Boost signal in Pag-asa

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Zubiri to ask telcos: Boost signal in Pag-asa
Image of cell sites.
BusinessWorld / File

PAG-ASA ISLAND, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri is planning to talk to telecommunications companies to help boost their networks’ signal here.

Zubiri was here on Thursday to lead a simple groundbreaking ceremony for the planned construction of a Philippine Navy barracks and a super rural health unit.

As their group’s plane was approaching Pag-asa Island, some of them received a notification message on their mobile phone, welcoming them to China.

The notification stated, “SMART welcomes you to China. Stay connected with GigaRoam Asia 3GB promo…” Another message stating “SMART welcomes you back to the Philippines! We hope you had an enjoyable trip” was also received as they flew back to Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

Zubiri said he would ask Manny V. Pangilinan of Smart and the Ayalas for Globe to put up facilities that would strengthen the signal of telcos on the island.

He said internet access is very important in everyday life, especially for school children who need to do research on the internet.

“We will appeal to Globe Telecom if they can also put a signal tower in the Kalayaan Group of Islands, particularly here in Pag-asa. And then we will also ask Mr. Manny Pangilinan if they can provide (the same). I will call them as soon as I get home,” Zubiri told reporters here.

He said similar facilities were installed in his hometown in Bukidnon and the telco signal improved. “For us in Bukidnon, I’m in the middle of the valley and there’s really no signal, they lent us a satellite facility, we have a signal in our barangay, we can do that here.”

“We can talk to them to put these facilities immediately, if possible, within the next couple of months in KIG (Kalayaan Island Group) if they can. What we can do is add to the budget in 2025,” the Senate President added.

Zubiri earlier told the China Coast Guard, which has been stationed in the West Philippine Sea about three to four nautical miles from here, “This is ours.”

During the simple groundbreaking ceremony, Zubiri hinted that the Chinese could be listening to him as he delivered his speech.

“Maybe there is a sensitive listening device from there on their (China) ships, I want to say if they are listening, this is the territory of the Republic of the Philippines, it is not yours, it was ours before Magellan came, so you can leave,” Zubiri said.

He noted that as their plane was about to land in Pag-asa Island, they received alarming verbal challenges from China.
Zubiri assured the residents that the Senate, under his leadership, will work hard to strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Coast Guard and the local government unit.

Zubiri, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senate Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito attended a security briefing presided over by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

“During the meeting, we told them to give us their wish list. Christmas has come early to Pag-asa Island, to the AFP and Coast Guard, please give your wish list because for 2025 we commit funding for you here, Kalayaan Group of Islands,” Zubiri added.

He noted that the wish list would help increase the infrastructure on the island and the capabilities of the AFP.

“This is indeed a momentous occasion. We are proud because it is our project as senators. Our investment in infrastructure in Pag-asa Island and in Kalayaan is an investment in our security in the West Philippine Sea,” Zubiri declared.

“It will show China and the rest of the world that there is a thriving community in Kalayaan at there is a functioning military unit ready to complement our patrols in our territory and exclusive economic zone,” he added.

During the visit, residents prepared a boodle fight for the senators, media guests and military personnel. Young children were provided with Jollibee Chicken Joy.

Zubiri has been notably outspoken in his condemnation of China’s repeated and aggressive incursions into the WPS, earlier pushed for the inclusion in the 2024 national budget of P30 million for the super rural health unit and P20 million for the Navy barracks.

The Senate President also successfully lobbied for a budget of P2.5 million for a disaster response and rescue vehicle for the municipality under the Local Government Support Fund (LGSF).

“Aside from the protection of independence, it is important that we also prioritize the development of its islands because they are undisputed Philippine territories. They are our citizens whose livelihood is the sea in WPS. They are living proof that the WPS is our territory,” Zubiri said.

Unlike the municipal health center that presently serves Kalayaan, the super rural health unit will be equipped with laboratory facilities and a birthing facility.

“This is just the start. We will continue to strengthen our defense posture here in Kalayaan, and we will continue to support the development of the municipality as a thriving community and a lively economy, and even an ecotourism destination here in Palawan.”

Civilians safe

During Zubiri’s visit to Pag-asa, journalists noted the number of Chinese vessels only about three to four nautical miles from here.

But Teodoro gave assurance that despite the presence of the Chinese vessels near the island, the residents are safe.

“I think they are safe; no right-thinking nation will attack civilians,” Teodoro said.

If China would attack Pag-asa Island, Teodoro said “their nose will bleed faster if they try.”

“Hwei chia la, chungkuo, or China go home,” Ejercito said.

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