PAGASA ISLAND, Palawan (PhilAmPress) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top Armed Forces officials led by Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano flew to the Pag-asa Island, a town of Palawan in the West Philippine Sea, for an inspection and check what facilities the island and its inhabitants and troops need.
On their way to and after leaving the island which is part of Palawan province, Lorenzana and party, on board two military planes were challenged by Chinese Coast Guard elements stationed in a nearby China-occupied and fortified island which is visible from Pagasa island triggering what could be a new tension and flashpoint between the Philippines and China.
Earlier, Filipino fishermen reported being fired upon by Chinese troops while fishing in another disputed island.
Pilots of the Airbus Military C-295 and Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft which carried Secretary Lorenzana and Gen. Ano and other top Armed Forces officers received the challenge from Subi Reef, once part of the Philippines’ Pag-Island chain which is only some 30 to 40 nautical miles away from the main Pagasa Island.“We replied that we are flying over Philippine territory,” Lorenzana said when asked for details regarding the Chinese challenge.
The Defense chief added that the challenge is automatic and part of the protocol of any country claiming jurisdiction on particular area especially when ships and aircraft passes through it.
Aside from the challenge, nothing untoward happened, Lorenzana stressed.
Aside from Gen. Ano, other ranking officials aboard the two military aircraft were Army commander Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and Western Command head Lt. Gen. Raul Del Rosario.
The aircraft left Villamor Air Base in Pasay City around 6 a.m. and arrived in Pagasa Island around 8 a.m. along with other members of the media.
Lorenzana said the government will allocate P1.6 billion to improve the Rancudo Airfield in Pagasa Island and construct ports and beaching ramps in the locality.Lorenzana made the announcement to Filipino troops and local government officials shortly after arriving here.
Priority will be given to the construction of a beaching ramp that will allow landing ship tanks and shallow draft vessels to transport and unload construction materials and other supplies in Pagasa Island, thus expediting the improvement works.
The defense chief said construction of the facility will start “immediately” so that it will be completed and operational before the rainy season starts.
Runway improvements include the concreting of the entire Rancudo Airfield to make it accessible during all types of weather.
Other improvements for Pagasa Island include the construction of a desalination plant, more solar panels and generator sets for power purposes, and the establishment of a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources marine research and shelter center.
More shelters will be also constructed for military personnel tasked to secure Pagasa Island and other Philippine-claimed features in the Spratly Islands.
Lorenzana said he sees no violation in the Philippines’ decision to improve its facilities in Pagasa Island, adding that the country should have done this before as other claimants in the Spratlys have already boosted and modernized their structures. (PhilAmPress)