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PAG-ASA Island, Palawan – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año visited this island occupied by the country in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea yesterday.
The trip was made to assert the nation’s claim to the heartland of a disputed area where China is believed to have added missiles on man-made islands.
Lorenzana said that the government has allocated P1.6 billion to further improve facilities here which is part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands for the welfare of soldiers and residents here.
He said that P1.2 billion will be used to repair the 1.3-kilometer runway while P400 million will be for the construction of a port.
The Defense chief, who is making his second trip here, the first when he was still a Command General Staff Course student in 1992, said the Naval Construction Battalion or Seabees will be in charge of the construction.
“We will repair the runway. We will cement it, fix the edges, and add a portion (of the road) so that the military aircraft like the C-130 cargo plane will not have a hard time landing because the runway is short right now,” Lorenzana said.
“Hopefully by July, we already finish the beaching so that the LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) can dock and unload construction materials like sand, gravel, etc., that will be used to cement the runway,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will construct a fishport to shelter fishermen caught in bad weather.
Lorenzana and Año were accompanied during the visit by Army chief Glorioso Miranda, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Edgard Fallorina, Palawan Gov. Jose Pepito Chavez Alvarez, Armed Forces Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Raul del Rosario, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, and Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, and other Defense officials, among others
Lorenzana and his colleagues at the Defense department arrived at the island via a C-130 military cargo plane while Año and other military officials were in a C-295 airbus plane.
The trip will likely infuriate China, which has claimed virtually the entire sea and aggressively tried to fortify its foothold, to the consternation of rival claimant governments and the United States. (with reports from AP)
(FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)