Philippine top defense officials on Tuesday inaugurated the newly constructed beaching ramp on Pag-asa Island, a facility that is expected to facilitate easy access to the island and all the features occupied by the county in the West Philippine Sea.
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana also formally turned over the facility to the municipality of Kalayaan and the Western Command (WESCOM).
He said while Kalayaan has been enjoying sovereignty since 1978, there is little that has been done to improve their safety, welfare, livelihood, and personal security.
The realization of the beaching ramp, a facility needed so vessels can lay ashore safely, is the government’s commitment to undertake essential improvements to hasten the delivery of social services and improve the living conditions of the residents of Barangay Pag-asa, he said.
“Today, we will witness the historic inauguration of the Pag-asa Island beaching ramp which will revitalize the community and strengthen Filipino presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” he said.
He said the beaching ramp is a major achievement of the government under the Duterte administration for its “notable impact on nation-building”. It also signifies the assurance of security for every inch of Philippine’s national territory.
National defense perspective
He said though the KIG is at the fringes of archipelagic Philippines, it plays a strategic role in reconnaissance missions and exploration activities.
“Thus, its immense importance to our expression and enjoyment of sovereignty is greatly acknowledged,” Lorenzana said.
He added that as the country prepares to celebrate its 122nd Independence Day, it is emphasizing that the beaching ramp turnover and inauguration is not a mere coincidence but “a strong indication of the government’s clear direction in asserting national sovereignty”.
AFP Basing Support System Projects
Lorenzana said as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Basing Support System Project, of which the beaching ramp is the first phase, the country is also set to implement other projects.
He said the government will proceed with the rehabilitation of the Rancudo runway to prevent erosion. It will involve the concreting of the runway and apron, and other facilities that will be implemented by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
“In addition, the AFP will be setting up its own FM radio station on the island to broadcast weather updates, environmental information, and other relevant information to the fishermen and the whole community,” he said.
He said the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) sheltered port project will also be inaugurated on June 12.
Maurice Phillip Albayda, Kalayaan municipal information officer, said that the beach ramp would be mainly used by the military, while the sheltered port that is set to be turned over on Friday will be for the civilians.
The sheltered port for fishing vessels, which was funded by the DOTr and ran by the provincial government of Palawan, may be utilized by fishermen, especially for taking shelter during inclement weather.
“Araw ng Kalayaan sa bayan ng Kalayaan. We will also have an Independence Day program, tree planting activity, and the turnover of the sheltered port on June 12,” Albayda said.
Barangay Pag-asa Island, the main seat of the government of Kalayaan municipality, holds around 90 to 110 local residents, according to Albayda.
The Kalayaan town, which is at 280 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Princesa City and 932 kilometers southwest of Metro Manila, was established on June 11, 1978, through Presidential Decree (PD) 1596.
Among the attendees of the event were Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Felimon Santos Jr., Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, Maj. Gen. Robert Arevalo, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Commodore Alfonspin Tumanda, 3rd Marine Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Nestor Herico, Naval Forces West commander Commodore Renato David, newly installed AFP Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria, Kalayaan mayor Roberto del Mundo, and other municipal government officials.