Transportation Undersecretary for Maritime Elmer Sarmiento hands a Jollibee meal to a young boy during his visit to Pag-asa Island on May 1. | Photo from DOTr

Transportation Undersecretary for Maritime Elmer Sarmiento visited Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan, West Philippine Sea, on Monday, to check on the condition of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel stationed there, as well as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Accompanied by PCG commandant Adm. Artemio Abu, the two officials expressed their gratitude for the warm welcome they received from the residents of the island.

During his speech, Usec. Sarmiento expressed gratitude to the islanders, which are caught in the act of aggression by China, and stressed the significance of Pag-asa as a symbol of Philippine territory.

“Sa mga mamamayan po ng Pag-asa, maraming salamat at nandito po kayo to symbolize and validate the territory of the Philippines that the Pag-asa belongs to us (To the people of Pag-asa, thank you very much for being here to symbolize and validate that Pag-asa Island belongs to the Philippines),” said Usec. Sarmiento.

Abu also praised the teamwork and unity among the PCG, AFP, and PNP personnel stationed on the island, urging them to continue working together towards the common goal of ensuring the country’s territorial integrity.

“Ipagpatuloy ninyo ang inyong magandang samahan kasama ang mga mamayan ng Pag-asa dahil nandito kayo for a common purpose, and that is to ensure the territorial integrity of our country (Continue your good relationship with the people of Pag-asa because you are here for a common purpose, and that is to ensure the territorial integrity of our country),” said Abu.

“Sana’y manatili sa inyong isipan at damdamin ang diwa ng bayanihan at teamwork while you are happily working for our country (May the spirit of cooperation and teamwork remain in your minds and hearts as you work happily for our country),” he added.

The officials also distributed gifts to the children on the island, along with former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III and PCG Deputy Chief of Coast Guard Staff for Logistics, Commodore Geoffrey Espaldon.

The visit aimed to boost morale among the personnel stationed on Pag-Asa Island, as well as to reinforce the Philippines’ claim over the area.