The Western Command (WESCOM) is looking into the possibility of expanding Naval Station Narciso Del Rosario (NSNDR) and fixing up an adjacent conveyor port in Barangay V in the town of Balabac.
WESCOM chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos told Palawan News on Friday that during his recent visit to the province’s southernmost municipality, he personally saw that the naval station where they are billeted needs a larger area for other support facilities.
“Yung naval station pag nakita mo maliit lang, parang 300 square meters, that’s not enough. Yung pinaka-pier sa dulo, yun ang aming primary facility, tapos yung support system na, yung nasa naval station. So, dapat yung lahat na papunta sa dagat ay sa navy na,” Carlos said.
“Ito yung gusto naming magawa so that bigger ships can dock in Balabac, which is very strategic because nandoon yung Balabac Strait, so naka standby na siya doon to respond to any emergency. May plano to build a pier—yung conveyor port. There’s already a contract to build a pier. This will be implemented by the Philippine Navy Seabees—yung Naval Combat Engineering Brigade ang magsu-supervise, “he added.
He also said that they are working to get a presidential proclamation so that the base can expand to at least two hectares.
Carlos added that this already had initial coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“We are working on the issuance of a presidential proclamation in that area na parang two hectares. May coordination na with the DENR, already made a survey, and the paper works are completed already in support for the issuance of a presidential proclamation,” he said.
“Doon kami binigyan ng clearance kasi yung dati doon sa taas, it turns out na mayroong claimant, so umalis kami at dito kami itinuro sa bandang baba, which is walang claimant and can be a subject of a PP to get a bigger land area,” he added.
While he raised serious concerns about the presence of illegal settlers, who have occupied the pier area, he also said it would not be hard for them to be persuaded to relocate.
“This has to be brought to the attention of the Local Government Unit for immediate resolution. Yung sa taas, around four houses, and sa tabing dagat, four to six din. And yung mga nasa dagat, I was told na alam nila na aalis sila once the base will be developed. Ang medyo challenging ay yung nandoon sa bandang landward side kasi medyo mas mataas ang value ng properties doon sa kabilang side,” he explained.
“Pero wala rin namang pinanghahawakan yung mga nakatira doon kaya nga doon kami tinuro for a presidential proclamation,” he added.
Carlos further stated that he is also studying the possible turnover of Cape Melville Lighthouse, which is situated adjacent to NSNDR.
He manifested his interest in restoring the lighthouse, which was built by the Spaniards but is now serving as a mere attraction, adding that coordination with other government agencies must be done since it is “outside of my jurisdiction.”
He also said he is recommending the local government unit (LGU) of Balabac to take care of the structure in order to maintain its historical value, but added that he has yet to talk with Mayor Shuaib Astami regarding the status of the lighthouse.
“Mukhang na-repair na siya kaya lang napabayaan na ulit. Tapos yung support structures niya sira na ulit, hindi na na-maintain. Ang sabi sa akin LGU yung dapat na nag-a-alaga kaya sabi ko nga dapat ampunin na lang natin total nandito na rin tayo. Yung pag-repair nun tingin ko hindi gagastos ng two million siguro, ang ganda na nun. And then siguro magdagdag kami ng tatlo o apat na tao,” he said. (with reports from Celeste Anna Formoso)