MANILA—As President Rodrigo Duterte announced his intentions to visit Pagasa Island, the largest of the Philippine-held feature in the Kalayaan Island Group, this coming June 12 the military on Thursday said it is still getting details on the purported visit.
“This is a matter I need to consult with our seniors,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla when asked whether it is advisable for the Chief Executive to visit the island.
Aside from his visit which will fall on the country’s 119th Independence Day anniversary, Duterte also ordered the military to occupy and secure all Philippine-held features in the Kalayaan Island Group and set up facilities that will ease the difficulties being experienced by troops manning these islands.
“I was not able to hear what his (President Duterte’s) announcement was this afternoon but he has made previous declaration that he supports whatever we are doing in our area and he is after the welfare of our soldiers in our occupied islets, so he is also on the same plane as our military and defense personnel to provide for the better living conditions of our personnel,” Padilla said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the facilities Duterte wanted to set-up for the soldiers included barracks for the men, water desalination plants, and sewage disposal systems, power generators(conventional and renewable), light houses, and shelters for fishermen.
The AFP spokesperson said Duterte was entitled to visit Pagasa Island, both as a Filipino citizen and his status as Commander-in-Chief.
But the President’s visit to Pagasa Island is also dependent on what kind of threats the visit might faced.
“There’s always the presence of a threat, that’s why we said either it is a low level threat, a high level threat will all depend (on that),” Padilla stressed.
Out of the seven island and three reefs being controlled by the Philippines, Pagasa is the largest measuring 37.2 hectares.
Other Philippine possessions in the Spratlys include Likas Island which measures 18.6 hectares; Parolo Island, 12.7 hectares; Lawak Island 7.93 hectares; Kota Island, 6. 45 hectares; Patag Island, 0.57; Panata Island, 0.44 hectares; Rizal, Balagtas and Ayungin Reefs.