DND chief, 3 senators visit remote village in West PH Sea

DND chief, 3 senators visit remote village in West PH Sea

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:48 AM May 18, 2024

DND chief, 3 senators visit remote village in West PH Sea

SURPRISED AND ALARMED Senators were surprised and alarmed at the situation around Pag-asa Island. —PHOTO FROM MUNICIPALITY OF KALAYAAN

PAG-ASA ISLAND—Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. accompanied three senators to this small island outpost to take stock of the situation in and around the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Teodoro, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Sen. JV Ejercito were onboard a private plane that flew them here on Thursday when they received radio challenges from Chinese naval forces.


“It’s so sad that while we are inside our own country, the territory of the Philippines, you are being told to leave because this is supposedly a territory of China,’” Zubiri told reporters.


“It’s surprising, alarming and infuriating,” he said of his first-hand experience of China’s hostile welcome.

The senators also saw 22 Chinese vessels, including a China Coast Guard ship and a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel, anchored less than six kilometers away from the shores of Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.

The 32-hectare island in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan province, is just 22 kilometers from Zamora (Subi) Reef, which China has already turned into a vast military outpost.

P50-M construction

Accompanied by Teodoro, the senators led the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a P20-million two-story dormitory housing for the Philippine Navy and a P30-million health facility in the island, which has 300 residents.

Zubiri said the “Super Rural Health Unit” will have modern laboratory equipment and birthing facility to provide better medical care for Pag-asa residents. He thanked the Philippine Coast Guard “because they will provide permanent doctors and nurses here, together with the doctors from the Navy.”

Zubiri, the highest government official to visit Pag-asa in recent years, admitted he was taken aback upon seeing China’s military installations in Zamora and the Chinese vessels strewn near the biggest land feature in the Philippine-owned Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys archipelago.


“It is only now that we really saw how dire the situation is on the ground,” Zubiri said.

Hair-raising experience

Villanueva said it felt surreal to personally hear the radio challenges from the Chinese forces as they were about to land in Pag-asa.

The same threatening messages were also sent to a Philippine Air Force plane that transported a group of journalists who covered the ceremony.

“And then when you see the 22 Chinese militia vessels that you thought were far from here, it’s really a hair-raising experience,” Villanueva said.

Teodoro, who also set foot in Pag-asa for the first time since President Marcos appointed him in August last year, thanked Zubiri, Villanueva and Ejercito for their efforts in supporting various projects of the AFP and other uniformed agencies to secure WPS.

Zubiri said the intervention that he and other senators made during last year’s budget deliberations gave the Department of National Defense (DND) and its attached agencies an additional funding of P10.5 billion for 2024.

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The extra allotments, he said, would be used to buy new patrol vessels, missile systems and other defense equipment to protect the country’s coastal communities.

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TAGS: West Philippine Sea

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