The Philippines is now upgrading existing facilities in the nine islands that comprise the municipality of Kalayaan, with the bulk of improvements centered on Pag-asa Island.
In a pre-SONA forum aired over state-run PTV-4 Wednesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said these upgrades are aimed at improving the living conditions of Filipino troops and civilians deployed and living in these islands.
“For the first time since the 1970s, Pag-asa Island has received major infrastructure upgrades, namely: a ship beaching ramp, and a sheltered port for our fishermen,” said Lorenzana, chair of the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster.
With the completion of these facilities, Lorenzana said it is now much easier to proceed with other projects such as the concreting of the runway (the Rancudo Airfield) and its apron and construction of other structures for the residents and troops stationed there.
Out of the seven islands and two reefs being controlled by the Philippines in the Spratlys, Pag-asa is the largest measuring 37.2 hectares.
Other Philippine possessions in the area include Likas Island which measures 18.6 hectares, Parola Island, 12.7 hectares; Lawak Island, 7.93 hectares; Kota Island, 6.45 hectares; Patag Island, 0.57; Panata Island, 0.44; Rizal and Ayungin Reefs.
Lorenzana earlier said transportation of materials needed to repair and then maintain the Rancudo Airfield will be made easier with the completion of the Pag-asa Island beaching ramp.
“Very significant (as with) the beaching ramp, we can now bring in materials, equipment to continuously repair and later on to maintain our runway (Rancudo Airfield),” he added.
Prior to the completion of the beaching ramp last June, equipment, and supplies could only be brought in by ship who have to anchor 500 meters away from the shore and transfer it to a smaller boat so that it can be carried to the island.
“So it’s very tedious (practice) and very expensive and we can only do that during calm weather,” Lorenzana said.
During the “habagat” or southwest monsoon season, even fishermen are very wary to go in the area due to rough weather and large waves.
With a budget of PHP267.18 million, the construction of the beaching ramp on Pag-asa Island is one of several projects aimed at improving the living conditions of the people there.
A total of PHP1.3 billion worth of projects are also in the pipeline, including the repair and concreting of the runway that has been damaged by erosion. (PNA)