P1B sought for Kalayaan isles

Posted on May 14, 2015

A MEASURE to appropriate funds for the Kalayaan Group of Islands has been filed at the House of Representatives.

Kalayaan Island -- AFP
House Bill 4167, filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district) and Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. seeks to appropriate P1 billion “to be exclusively used for the fortification and improvement of the current structures present in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.”

“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,” Mr. Rodriguez said in the explanatory note.

“Aside from solidifying our claim, the construction of structures in the Kalayaan Islands would also improve the tourism industry of the islands,” Mr. Rodriguez added.

Kalayaan was described as “a 5th-class municipality in the province of Palawan” with a population “of around 300 to 400 people” subject to claims by “Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia and China.”

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr. visited Barangay Pag-asa in Pag-asa Island last Monday with reporters. It is the lone barangay in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

Mr. Catapang told reporters that he visited to establish that Pag-asa Island is a Philippine territory. Mr. Catapang added that there was a need to improve the island’s runway because of the difficulty in landing planes in the short airstrip.

Western command chief Vice-Admiral Alexander S. Lopez told reporters on Tuesday that the visit was also an opportunity to counter Chinese allegations of Philippine reclamation activities in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Satellite photos show that China has been conducting massive reclamations in several reefs around the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea. -- Elizabeth E. Escaño