Sobejana pushes for logistics hub on Pag-asa Island: ‘This is ours’
MANILA, Philippines—Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana visited Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea to personally oversee developments there.
“It was just to see what is really happening there,” he told reporters on Wednesday (June 9).
“It is also in line with our plan to convert the island into a logistics hub to sustain our forces for deployment in the area,” Sobejana said.
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.
The AFP chief earlier proposed the use of Pag-asa as a logistics hub for the Philippine military to sustain its patrols in the West Philippine Sea, which China is baselessly claiming to own.
Chinese vessels continued to linger in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, mocking a series of protests and demands made by the Philippine government to leave the West Philippine Sea as Chinese officials continued to insist that their country owned the area.
Sobejana said he believed that his visit last Monday would not ignite tensions in the disputed waters. “It is our own, why should we be afraid? It is our territory so we can pursue whatever plan we have for as long as it is for the best interest of our country,” he said.
He said his trip to the island via a Philippine Air Force C-130 was unchallenged by the Chinese.
“There’s no disruption whatsoever and I was able to convey my message to our forces deployed in that part of the archipelago,” said Sobejana. “Our visit was very smooth and I was able to go around the island,” said the armed forces chief who was with other ranking military officials of the AFP and Western Command.
During his visit, Sobejana said he gave emphasis to the importance of looking after the welfare of troops deployed to Pag-asa and eight other islands and reefs belonging to the Philippines.
“The AFP will strike a balance between mission accomplishments and looking after the morale and welfare of our men and women,” Sobejana told the troops assigned to Pag-asa.
He also reminded them of their crucial role in protecting Filipinos and their livelihood in the Kalayaan Island Group and in guarding Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.
Prior to his trip, Sobejana visited the BRP Emilio Jacinto, one of the Philippine Navy ships deployed to Palawan to boost patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
He commended sailors for their role in the successful rescue of several fishermen at Nares Bank in late May.
Sobejana also lauded the ship’s crew for protecting the country’s territorial integrity.
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