MANILA — Mindanao lawmakers are seeking a P 1 billion appropriation for the improvement, fortification and building of structures in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan to protect the sovereignty of the country, solidify its claim over the area, and promote tourism industry in the locality.
The proposed P 1 billion appropriation would be used for the construction of a safe harbor, berthing facilities and the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa island. The fund would also be used to enhance the tourism industry of the Islands, according to Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and his younger brother Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao).
“In order to strengthen our claim and protect our sovereignty, we need to build more structures and fortify our defense of these islands, particularly the construction of a safe harbor as well as the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa Island. Aside from solidifying our claim, the construction of structures in the Kalayaan Islands would also improve the tourism industry there,” said the elder Rodriguez.
According to the lawmakers, Kalayaan Islands is a fifth class municipality in Palawan, which has a population of around 300 to 400 people. It has one barangay, Pag-asa, and a 1.3-kilometer airstrip that is used by both the military and civilians.
The Kalayaan Islands have been the subject of claims of different countries including Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia and China.
The country said the areas covered by Vietnam’s unilateral partial submission are “disputed because they overlap with those of the Philippines.” The Philippines also contested the submission by the Republic of Palau establishing the outer limits of its continental shelf that lie beyond 200 nautical miles. It said the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Palau is measured overlaps with the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.
The lawmakers noted that at present, the different countries, particularly China, have built strong fortifications and military structures in the Kalayaan Islands. On several instances, Chinese gunboats even confiscated fishing nets of Filipino fishermen and the increasing Chinese intrusions and their illegal occupation of Mischief (Panganiban) Reef are already alarming to the country’s security.
In House Bill 4167, the lawmakers sought the appropriation of P 1 billion for the improvement, fortification and building of structures in the Kalayaan Group of Islands. An annual report regarding the use of the funds appropriated shall be submitted to both the Senate and the House, the bill provides.
The bill is now pending at the House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab, Jr. (3rd District, Davao City).