Lawmakers eye P1B to fortify Kalayaan Group of Islands
Dennis Carcamo (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2014 - 9:37am

MANILA, Philippines - As the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China escalates, two Mindanao-based lawmakers have proposed a measure, seeking to appropriate P1 billion for the fortification of the structures in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

In House Bill 4167, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his younger brother Abante Mindanao partylist Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. sought the improvement, fortification, and building of structures in the areas.

The legislators said that the fund to be allocated for the Kalayaan Group of Islands would also promote the tourism industry of the region.

The proposed P1 billion appropriation would be used for the construction of a safe harbor, berthing facilities, and the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa island.

"In order to strengthen our claim and protect our sovereignty, we need to build more structures and fortify our defense of these islands, particularly the construction of a safe harbor as well as the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa Island. Aside from solidifying our claim, the construction of structures in the Kalayaan Islands would also improve the tourism industry there," the elder Rodriguez said.

Kalayaan Islands is a fifth class municipality in Palawan, which has a population of around 300 to 400 people. It has one barangay, Pag-asa, and a 1.3-kilometer airstrip that is used by both the military and civilians.

The Kalayaan Islands have been the subject of claims of different countries including Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia, and China.

The Philippine government said the areas covered by Vietnam's unilateral partial submission are "disputed because they overlap with those of the Philippines."

The Philippines also contested the submission by the Republic of Palau establishing the outer limits of its continental shelf that lie beyond 200 nautical miles. It said the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Palau is measured overlaps with the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.

At present, the different countries, particularly China, have built strong fortifications and military structures in the Kalayaan Islands.

On several instances, Chinese gunboats even confiscated fishing nets of Filipino fishermen and the increasing Chinese intrusions and their illegal occupation of Mischief (Panganiban) Reef are already alarming to the country's security, the lawmakers said. 

ABANTE MINDANAO IN HOUSE BILL ISLANDS KALAYAAN GROUP OF ISLANDS KALAYAAN ISLANDS MAXIMO RODRIGUEZ JR. ORO CITY REP PAG PALAU PHILIPPINES AND CHINA RANCUDO
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