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PH to spend P1B on new naval base

Site near Panatag Shoal where China is driving away Filipino fishermen
By: - Correspondent / @amacatunoINQ
/ 12:03 AM May 17, 2014

Panatag shoal

SUBIC, Zambales—The government will spend P1 billion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization fund to build a new naval operating base in this town, Mayor Jefferson Khonghun said on Wednesday.

Khonghun said the construction of a pier, warehouses and housing facilities for the naval base would start this month in a 500-hectare area in Barangay Cawag. The site of the proposed base is near the shipyard of the Korean-owned Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd. Philippines and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

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“Local government officials are very supportive of this and we’re fortunate to have a naval base in our town,” Khonghun told the Inquirer.

He said the Subic town council on May 7 passed a resolution endorsing the project “without any objection.”

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He said the proposed pier would be designed to accommodate “big and modern ships” of both the Philippine and American naval forces.

Last to know

Khonghun said Philippine Navy officials had been coordinating with him about the construction of the naval base. The site was identified three weeks before the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed by Philippine and American officials last month.

“We (local officials) were the last to know about the project because the AFP had to secure first the necessary approval of all concerned agencies,” Khonghun said.

He said members of the AFP’s engineering brigade were scheduled to visit the site this month for the initial preparation of the construction of facilities.

Before retiring last month, Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano, Philippine Navy flag officer in command, wrote Khonghun to confirm that the Navy had identified an area in Barangay Cawag for the establishment of the naval operating base.

Alano’s April 14 letter said the new site was close to the Hanjin shipyard and would cover private property that the government would buy. The letter also sought coordination and support from the local government.

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Strategic site

“The site for the new naval base is very strategic because there are passable roads leading to it. Besides, it is near Bajo de Masinloc (the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea), so it will provide security to our local fishermen who were previously driven away by Chinese coast guard personnel,” Khonghun said.

He said Subic officials had met with Navy officials several times since April. Local officials, he said, supported the construction of the naval base “after considering national security and weighing the economic benefits” of the project.

A memorandum of agreement between the AFP and Subic officials would be signed next month for the construction of the base, Khonghun said.

Roberto Garcia, chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), earlier confirmed that a portion of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone would be used by the AFP as it establishes a base in the free port.

Garcia said the SBMA would allow the AFP to use sections of the former naval facilities of the United States, including three wharves and ports and a portion of the old US naval air station.

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TAGS: China, Panatag Shoal, Philippines, territorial dispute
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