The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday asked the government for funds to better secure Pag-asa Island against hovering foreign ships and planes in the area.
According to a “24 Oras” report by Mav Gonzalez, the Senate Committee on National Defense and the AFP Chief of Staff inspected Pag-asa Island to determine what else should be funded.
About 4-5 Chinese fishing vessels approach Pagasa Island every week in addition to the Chinese Coast Guard, said the Philippine Navy.
“As much as possible kung tayo unang nakakita, we conduct initial challenge. Our ships, sea captains, and pilots are advised to keep a safe distance. We document all the exchanges of challenges to have references for filing of diplomatic protests,” said Naval Force Commander Commodore Alan Javier.
Among the AFP’s requests was additional funding for radar and to cater to the needs of military guards and other uniformed personnel.
“[The radar] can detect any incursion within a 200 nautical mile radius. Kailangan malayo palang ma-detect na. Before we think about defending, we have to detect and identify who’s coming in,” explained General Andres Centino, AFP Chief of Staff.
He said sufficient funds were also needed to finish the port being built on Pagasa Island so that large vessels can dock.
“Whatever decisions our lawmakers will make, yun naman po ay ginawa for the betterment not just of the AFP but the whole country. We are sensitive also to that,” said Centino.
Meanwhile, Senate Committee on National Defense Chairman Senator Jinggoy Estrada said the government would support and increase the budget for the AFP, and their pension will not be affected.
“Supportive of their needs. Increase the budget for the AFP. I don’t want active military maapektuhan. The pension of the retirees will not be affected. ‘Di na gagalawin,” Estrada said.
The senator added that he was committed to assisting the defense establishment in fulfilling its mandate as protector of the people and state, and the Senate was crafting legislation that would benefit Filipino servicemen and servicewomen.
“Ang ating pagbisita rin dito ay pagpapakita rin ng moral support sa mga kasamahan nating civil servants, military personnel, na walang pag-aatubili gampanan ang kanilang tungkulin matiyak lamang ang seguridad at integridad ng ating teritoryo sa karagatan,” he added.
(Our visit here is also a demonstration of moral support for our fellow civil servants and military personnel, who have not hesitated in fulfilling their duty to ensure the security and integrity of our territory in the ocean.)
The Philippines filed several diplomatic protests against China following the swarming of Chinese fishing vessels in the country’s maritime waters including Pag-asa Island.
Last February, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel was illuminated by a military-grade laser from the China Coast Guard in Ayungin Shoal, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and part of the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese Embassy said they were only measuring the distance of the boat and did not use a military-grade laser. This incident prompted the Philippines to file a new protest against China.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, following a case filed by the Philippines, invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea. Beijing does not recognize the ruling. — Richa Allyssa Noriega/Sherylin Untalan/DVM, GMA Integrated News