AFP eyes logistics hub in Pag-asa island for uninterrupted WPS patrols
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is setting its sights on transforming the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) into a military logistics hub.
Pag-asa, the biggest and most strategically important Philippine outpost in the Kalayaan Island Group, is 400 kilometers from mainland Palawan province. It is the only Philippine-held feature with a civilian community, while eight other islands and reefs are occupied by Filipino troops.
“We came up with the proposal to turn our municipality in Pag-asa into a logistics hub so our ships, instead of going back to Puerto Princesa to refuel, will get their supplies there,” said AFP chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana in an interview with radio station dzBB on Tuesday (May 4).
The military, he said, would be able to sustain its patrols more effectively if Pag-asa is turned into a supply hub.
“By transforming Pag-asa island into a logistics hub, our ships would no longer venture far and there would not be interruption in our sovereignty patrols in the West Philippine Sea,” said Sobejana. He said it takes weeks for ships to go to Puerto Princesa.
The military is also considering the construction of recreational facilities on Pag-asa for sailors who needed R&R.
“When our sailors disembark in Pag-asa island should have entertainment,” Sobejana said. “That means we will build recreational facilities there to balance the lives of our sailors,” he said.
“They patrol the seas,” Sobejana said. “When they dock in Pag-asa they will have places to visit and so they can relax, too,” he added.
In 2020, the Philippine government finished building a beaching ramp and sheltered port on Pag-asa. These would allow the transport of construction materials and serve as safe harbor for vessels on a visit.
The Philippines also plans to repair the decrepit 1.3 kilometer airstrip on Pag-asa.
Sobejana said the Philippine military and coast guard remained undeterred in their tasks to conduct sovereignty patrols in WPS despite Chinese threats.
“We are not intimidated by the challenges,” said Sobejana. “We are not swayed by that and continue our resupply missions,” he said.
“China, we challenge them too we have counterchallenge against them that West Philippine Sea is not theirs but belongs to the Philippines,” said the AFP chief.
With the AFP increasing its presence in WPS, Sobejana said Philippine troops hoped to protect Filipino fishermen in the area.
Chinese vessels refused to leave Philippine EEZ, mocking a series of protests and demands made by the Philippine government to leave WPS as Chinese officials continued to insist that their country owned the area.
The Chinese government simply ignored the diplomatic protests filed by Philippine foreign affairs and defense officials in a sign of confidence on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s tight embrace of Beijing.
On Monday (May 3), the Philippines accused China coast guard of “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers, and radio challenges of the Philippine coast guard vessels.”
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