PH Coast Guard station upgrade in Pag-asa planned amid China threat
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) plans to upgrade its station on Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea to boost monitoring of incursions and maritime mishaps, according to a PCG official.
“There’s a plan to further improve the PCG station in Pag-asa for monitoring purposes especially for maritime safety and search and rescue,” Commodore Armando Balilo, PCG spokesperson, told reporters on Wednesday (May 26).
“It’s also for our fishermen,” Balilo said.
The planned upgrade comes amid a series of diplomatic protests that the Philippines filed against China’s continued incursion and territory-grabbing in the West Philippine Sea. China continues to ignore the protest and treat those as trash amid admissions by President Rodrigo Duterte that there’s nothing that can be done short of war.
The PCG is also setting its sights on using El Nido, a popular tourist site, as a hub for operations and set up a coast guard base there in the near future, Balilo said.
Admiral George Ursabia Jr., PCG chief, visited Pag-asa on Tuesday (May 24) in an apparent prelude to the upgrade plans which are linked to a bid to assert Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, which is under assault by China’s aggressive campaign to steal territory.
Ursabia distributed school supplies to students in Pag-asa, the only Philippine-governed outpost in the municipality of Kalayaan that has a civilian population.
A small school for children was built there in 2012—a move that China opposed because it was claiming to own the area, too, along with a baseless, expansive claim to the entire South China Sea. The school offers kindergarten and elementary courses. But to finish their schooling, students have to go to the mainland of Palawan.
“You youngsters, you will uplift Pag-asa Island,” Ursabia was quoted as saying during the distribution of school supplies.
“We want to give you a good education so when you grow up, you can enter the service,” he said. “We are here to realize your ambition because you will inherit the Coast Guard, AFP, PNP and other branches of government,” Ursabia said in Filipino.
The coast guard chief also extolled the dedication to duty of PCG men deployed to the island to assert Philippine sovereignty.
He gave the Distinguished Coast Guard Cross and Ribbon to 17 PCG men, headed by Lieutenant Junior Grade Elwin Madridano.
“We recognize your heroism in the face of great danger above and beyond the call of duty, most especially in conducting maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea,” Ursabia told the PCG men.
“On behalf of your Coast Guard family and the entire Filipino nation, we thank you for your humble and compassionate public service,” he said.
Ursabia, the first coast guard commandant to visit Pag-asa, boarded a coast guard ship to get to the island.
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