Friday, April 21, 2017

PH allots P1.6B to fast track construction on Pag-asa

From Rappler (Apr 22): PH allots P1.6B to fast track construction on Pag-asa

The funding mainly covers the repairs of the eroding runway    

TOP BRASS. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the top officers of the Philippine military visit Pag-asa Island on April 21, 2017. Rappler photo

TOP BRASS. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the top officers of the Philippine military visit Pag-asa Island on April 21, 2017. Rappler photo

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said P1.6 billion has been allocated to proceed with long delayed plans to construct facilities in Pag-asa (Tithu) Island, the second biggest naturally occuring island in the entire South China Sea and the only one with a community of civilians.

The funding will cover mainly the repair of the runway.

"P1.2 billion ($24 million)* [for the runway] plus P400 million ($8 million) for transportation. P1.6 billion lahat (total). Dito lang sa Pag-asa muna yan (We will spend all of that here first)," Lorenzana told reporters who joined him in his trip to the disputed seas. (READ: PH security officials visit disputed island in West PH Sea)

He wants to speed up the construction work. He said he will tap the navy's Seebees – a mobile construction unit of the Philippine Navy – to immediately beach the island so that the military's landing ship tanks can bring in construction materials.

"Dapat kasi maumpisan natin ito hanggang...kasi kapag July, tag-ulan na 'yan e. Kaya ang magandang gawin muna ay beaching, 'yung landingan ng LST (Landing Ship Tank)," Lorenzana said. "We'll also hire civilian laborers," he said.

(We should be able to start it before July because it will already be the rainy season. It's good if we can do the beaching immediately so the LSTs can land.) He said the soldiers should arrive on Pag-asa Island in the next few weeks to start work.

Fixing the runway, finally
Lorenzana promised to fix and extend the eroded runway. "Kanina nakakatakot mag-landing itong C130. Akala mo lalampas na sa runway dahil sa igsi ng runway (It was a scary landing for the C130. You'd think it would overshoot the short runway)," he said. (READ: Duterte adviser bares plan to fix PH runway in West PH Sea)

He also wants to build a solar power tower, a desalination facility, a fish port, and a sewage system.

He envisioned turning the island's white sand beaches into a tourist destination, a proposal that local officials in Pag-asa Island have been proposing for a while.

"Napakaganda ng beaches, puting-puti at saka mababaw lang (The beaches are beautiful, very white and they're just shallow). We will develop this into a tourism area and marine research. Gagawa tayo ng mga facilities dito, building, at saka pagagandahin din natin 'yung tirahan ng ating mga sundalo (We will put up facilities, buildings, and we will also improve the barracks of the soldiers)," he said.

"Kapag nagawa na natin itong runway rito na maganda, makakapunta na lahat. Madaling pumunta dito. Maraming magpupunta rito dahil magandang tourist attraction ito e," Lorenzana said.

(Once the runway is fixed, everyone can come. It's easy to come here. A lot of people will want to go because it's a great tourist attraction.)

The previous administration had similar plans, had allocated funding, and awarded contracts for the development of Pag-asa Island. But it was deferred as the country filed an international arbitration case against China's actions against the Philippines inside its 200-nautical exclusive economic zone.

"I think we could already resume at 'yun naman ang gustong mangyari ni President (that's what the President wants), na i-improve ang faciltiies dito (to improve facilities here)," Lorenzana said.

Soldiers freed

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 20): Soldiers freed

NPA’s Mt. Alip Command releases two soldiers held for 3 months
THE NEW People’s Army (NPA) yesterday released two prisoners of war (POWs) in a hinterland barangay in Digos City, Davao del Sur.
The release of Sgt. Solaiman Calucop and Pfc. Samuel Garay, was facilitated by the local government of Davao del Sur and a third party facilitator, Sowing the Seeds of Peace.

Calucop and Garay were abducted in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, on Feb. 2, this year. They were released after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) issued a suspension of military operations order Tuesday.
Earlier, NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos said their scheduled release of Calucop and Garay was supposed to be on April 11 somewhere in the Socsargen region but was cancelled because of the military and police operations in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani Province and General Santos region.

Madlos stressed that the operations placed the lives of the POWs, their families and the third-party facilitators at risk.

He added that the group is set to release three more captives in Bukidnon and the Caraga region.

Soldier’s wives
The wives of Sgt. Soliman Calacop and Pfc. Samuel Garay openly displayed their affection and deep longing for their husbands who were held captive for three months by the communist rebels.

After tearfully embracing the enlisted men of the Philippine Army when they were presented and released to local government officials, both sat on the laps of their husbands wiping their tears and thanking the custodial unit of the New People’s Army’s Mt. Alip Command for sparing the lives of their loved ones.

Sgt. Calacop and Pfc. Garay were conducting peace and development efforts in a remote village in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat when they were ‘arrested’ by the NPAs.

Their capture came days after the NPA General Command headed by Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris announced it was withdrawing the unilateral ceasefire it declared when the peace talks with the Philippine government were resumed in August last year.

Ka Macario Dilaab, spokesman of the Mt. Alip Command of the Far South Mindanao Regional command of the NPA said the two government soldiers were released on humanitarian grounds and upon orders of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Ka Macario said the two were actively engaged in gathering information on the movement of the rebels but showed remorse and thus were spared from punishment.

“(Nguni’t) nakita ang kanilang pagsisisi sa panahon ng kanilang detensyon, imbestigasyon at sa pagsailalim sa proseso,” Ka Macario explained.

The rebel spokesman said the two promised not to engage in “anti-people” activities.

Ka Macario likewise said the release of the “prisoners of war “ (POWs) is an exercise of authority by the rebel’s “organs of political power.”

He further said the two were released unharmed in accordance to the Geneva Convention and were turned over to Columbio Vice Mayor Edwin Bermudez and South Cotabato Board Member Romulo Solivio.

Also present were Davao del Sur provincial administrator and former Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas who represented his father Gov. Douglas Cagas.

The Far South Mindanao Regional Command of NPA is among the most active units of the communist rebels even when the unilateral ceasefire declared by both the NDF and the GRP.

Revolutionary taxes

The Mt. Alip command has been engaged in bus burning and attack on construction firms as well as agricultural plantations who refuse to pay revolutionary tax.

Macario also defended their continuing collection of revolutionary taxes.

The rebel authority, Ka Macario later explained, has the same power to collect taxes the way the Philippine government exact taxes from the people.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said the rebels must stop collecting revolutionary tax in order for the peace process to proceed.

The communist rebels and the government have resumed negotiations after these were abruptly terminated in February following allegations of violations of the unilateral ceasefire declared by both sides last year.

But in The Netherlands last month, both parties agreed to explore the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement after they will hammer out the mechanics and parameters in the formal lull in the fighting.

The peace negotiations will resume for the 5th round late May, also in The Netherlands.

More POWs

Meanwhile, last April 6, two town mayors in Bukidnon have asked police and military officials to suspend operations to pave way for the safe release of Police Officer 2 Anthony Natividad who was abducted by the NPA on February 9 in Tikalaan village, Talakag, Bukidnon.

Natividad was set to be released last March 2 but was cancelled due to the series of clashes with the military in the area. The NPA has not yet announced a new release date.

Grenade attack on mosque injures 8 in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 21): Grenade attack on mosque injures 8 in Philippines

A grenade attack on a mosque during Friday’s prayer injured at least 8 people, including a politician and his son who is a town vice mayor in the troubled province of Maguindanao in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, police said.

Police said among the wounded were Ali Midtimbang, a former mayor in Talayan town, and son Nathaniel, vice mayor of Datu Anggal Midtimbang town; and 6 other people – Tho Kasim, Tho Marcos; Tho Makalangga, Anong Mupak, Sandi Aron and Manap Balumol.

The victims were on their way out of the mosque in Talayan town when one of two motorcycle gunmen tossed the grenade and exploded near the group. The assailants escaped after the attack, according to the police.

Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also visited Midtimbang in the hospital.

Police were investigating the blast. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the daring attack and police would not say if it was connected to politics or not. The elder Midtimbang ran for governor in the last elections, but lost to Esmael Mangudadatu.

Army commander aware of ASG terror plans; Dauin mayor assures of tight security

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Army commander aware of ASG terror plans; Dauin mayor assures of tight security

A commander of the Philippine Army in Negros Oriental has debunked early reports that it was the United States Embassy in Manila who knew first of the plan of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to carry out their kidnapping activities in the Visayas.

There is no truth to insinuations, the US Embassy was the first to break the news about the plan of the Abu Sayaff to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas when it issued the advisory two days before the incident in Inabanga, Bohol, said 79th Infantry Batallion commanding officer Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia on Friday.

He stressed the Army already knew about the plan of the ASG to target Central Visayas, but it was unclear when and where.

It was for this reason that since 2015 when they knew of the plan that the possible targets are Cebu and Bohol, the 79th IB and the Philippine National Police (PNP) headed here by Sr. Supt. Henry Biñas, had strengthened their defenses along the coastlines, together with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Ragay Degamo had even issued an executive order way back in 2015 to form a task force, now known as Task Force Leon Kilat.

Garcia said the Army and the PNP in the province did not take the reports lightly after the incident in Samal Island, which was not the main target, but due to lapses in its defenses, the kidnapping was perpetrated by the ASG in that island.

As a result, additional troops were deployed in Apo Island, the premier tourist destination in Negros Oriental.

The army commander disclosed that the army intelligence even knew that the ASG left Zamboanga to an undisclosed destination in the Visayas and was monitored in the vicinity of Siquijor island days before the incident in Inabanga, Bohol.

Meanwhile, Dauin Mayor Neil Credo has denied reports of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf in his municipality.

Since two months ago, there was no report of any ASG presence in the town of Dauin, where Apo Island is located.

In fact, Credo said tourist arrivals in the municipality had increased, with average arrivals from 250 to 300 every day, mostly foreign nationals.

One foreign national even said Apo Island is the safest among the tourist destinations in the Visayas, especially after the incident in Bohol.

However, Mayor Credo is not taking chances with the municipality having its own so-called “sea warriors” on board a patrol boat manned by Police Environmental Desk Officers (PEDO) and some regular and job order employees of the municipality, aside from the contingents from the army, navy and the coast guard.

It has organized the fishermen and barangay officials along the coastal areas, and briefed them on the existing threat.

Likewise, the local chief executive has also established direct links to 30 more or less beach resorts in the municipality, for them to strengthen their in-house security and implement the Dauin “First Policy” of hiring locals first in their resorts before outsiders.

Task Force chief: ASG-NPA kidnap threat can not be discounted

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Task Force chief: ASG-NPA kidnap threat can not be discounted

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) may be in contact with the New People’s Army (NPA) to pursue their mission to kidnap prominent personalities in the Visayas, said Navy Capt. Jorge Ibarra, Task Force Deter commander based in Dumaguete City.

Capt. Ibarra on Friday said he did not discount the possibility of a situation where NPA rebels would carry out the kidnapping and then sell their victims to the ASG, who in turn would demand millions of pesos in ransom money from families of their victims.

Ibarra said he was hoping the situation would not reach this point while the task force was validating and processing intelligence information about sightings of armed individuals in parts of Sta. Catalina.

Gov. Roel Degamo was told the armed individuals sighted in Fatima and Omanod, Sta. Catalina town were NPA rebels who fled Bohol after the encounter and on their way to Negros Occidental through Payaw-payawan.

Cop hurt in ambush gets commended by PNP chief; receives medal of honor

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Cop hurt in ambush gets commended by PNP chief; receives medal of honor

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Friday morning commended Police Officer 1 Cielito Amistad who was wounded in an ambush by 60 to 80 suspected New People’s Army rebels in Barangay Badling, Uson town, Masbate on Thursday.

The commendation was conveyed to Amistad by Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, head of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5), who visited the wounded policeman at the Masbate City Hospital on Friday morning.

During the hospital visit Buenafe pinned the “Medalya ng Kagitingan” (medal of valor) on Amistad as he was in his hospital bed at 8:45 a.m. today.

“The PNP Chief said he also salutes you for showing gallantry while fulfilling your duty,” Buenafe told Amistad who suffered shrapnel wounds on his upper right chest.

Amistad also received cash assistance from Buenafe who was accompanied by Masbate Governor Antonio Kho during the hospital visit.

The police officer has rendered five years of service to the Philippine National Police when he received the medal of honor.

Buenafe said Amistad belonged to a group of nine policemen from the Uson Municipal Police Office who were responding to a shooting incident in Barangay Badling in Uson when the ambush occurred at dawn on Thursday.

“The police station had received a report that the brother of the village chairman of Badling was killed by unidentified armed men at 4 a.m.,” added Buenafe.

Amistad recounted their group headed by SPO4 Manny Marcaida immediately trooped to Badling after receiving the report.

He said he was among those in front as the police team was entering the village.

“The police team was around three and a half kilometers away from the national road when I was hit by a landmine,” said Amistad.

He said at this point the communist rebels started spraying fire on the police team. He added the guerrillas were firing from an M203.

“I thought I was near my life’s end. Aside from my wounds I could not sense the presence of my police team mates whom I thought may have also been wounded,” Amistad recounted to Buenafe.

Amistad said after a few more moments, he heard his companions trading shots with the rebels. He said this lasted for around 20 minutes.

“The firefight stopped only after the NPA rebels thought reinforcements for the police team were already coming because it had been a ‘long and intense’ firefight,” he added.

He said this gave the police team a chance to retreat and go to safer grounds.

Buenafe said Amistad was the who was severely wounded during the ambush.

He was rushed to the hospital and has been declared as in stable condition.

Abu Sayyaf stragglers in Bohol now impotent: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Abu Sayyaf stragglers in Bohol now impotent: AFP chief

The remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits in Bohol no longer have the capability to conduct kidnappings or other atrocities, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said in an interview late Thursday.

"They are running for their lives, especially the wounded ones. Sooner or later, we will spot them and arrest or neutralize them," Año said in Filipino.

He said "additional actions" are being undertaken to ensure the neutralization of the remaining bandits.

About seven Abu Sayyaf members, survivors of the botched incursion in the province's Inabanga town, are being hunted by authorities as of this posting.

In the April 11 clash with government forces in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, their leader Muanmar Askali alias "Abu Rami" was killed, along with three other bandits, three soldiers, a police officer and an elderly couple.

As this develops, Año said the PHP1-million-per-head reward offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to anyone who could give the exact location and whereabouts of the remaining bandits in Bohol, is a useful incentive for the community.

"That will facilitate the arrest or surrender of the remaining terrorists who are now still in Inabanga and in hiding, trying to evade security forces hunting them," he added.

In exchange for the reward, interested parties only need to provide the information on the bandits' whereabouts -- no questions asked, he said.

"This time, this loathsome band of criminals will not just be hounded by sniffing dogs of the AFP but also by the local residents who will be a million peso or more richer by merely providing information leading to the neutralization of the former," Año stressed.

NASSA/Caritas supports environment chief's plan to work with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): NASSA/Caritas supports environment chief's plan to work with NPA

The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines has expressed support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez's plan to work with the National People's Army (NPA).

"That's a very good initiative and move -- pursuing the peace process while seeking to collaborate with stakeholders for social change," said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of NASSA/Caritas Philippines.

"It is a challenge to pursue social justice without recourse to violence. The poor are often the victims of environmental injustice."

According to the official of the social advocacy, development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), such initiative is needed to achieve peace.

"We need to seek and open windows for dialogue and lasting peace," Gariguez said, adding that the rebels would hopefully cooperate.

On Thursday, Lopez said she is looking to work with the communist group to make Agusan del Sur a model of her department's “ecological, economic, educational” thrust.

Aircraft carrying Lorenzana, ranking AFP officials in Pagasa Island challenged

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Aircraft carrying Lorenzana, ranking AFP officials in Pagasa Island challenged

Chinese Coast Guard elements have challenged the military transport planes carrying Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Ano to Pagasa Island Friday morning.

Pilots of the Airbus Military C-295 and Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft received the challenge from Subi Reef, a Chinese-owned feature, some 30 to 40 nautical miles away from Pagasa Island.

"We replied that we are flying over Philippine territory," Lorenzana said when asked for details regarding the Chinese challenge.

The Defense chief added that the challenge is automatic and part of the protocol of any country claiming jurisdiction on particular area especially when ships and aircraft passes through it.

Aside from the challenge, nothing untoward happened, Lorenzana stressed.

Other ranking officials aboard the two military aircraft are Army commander Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and Western Command head Lt. Gen. Raul Del Rosario.

The former left Villamor Air Base, Pasay City around 6 a.m. and arrived in Pagasa Island around 8 a.m. along with other members of the media selected for this event.

Pres. Duterte visits Russian guided missile cruiser

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Pres. Duterte visits Russian guided missile cruiser

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte visited on Friday the Russian guided missile cruiser "Varyag" anchored in the Port of Manila.

Upon arrival at Pier 15, the Chief Executive was accorded arrival honors by the Russian Navy contingent.

The President then boarded the ship for a tour. He was accompanied by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Department of Foreign Affairs acting Secretary Enrique Manalo.

He first went to the upper deck where the short-range anti-missile rocket system is located.

He proceeded to the mid-ship where the long-range anti-aircraft missile rocket system is placed.

Duterte also went to the bough where the ship's main weapon or the long distance anti-ship missile and anti-aircraft carrier are located.

"The Russians are with me, I shall not be afraid," the President said as he stood for a photo with the Russians.

The President also went to the ship museum as well as the Admiral's room for the guest book signing.

President Duterte earlier said he welcomed the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit their country.

According to the President, he is going to Russia to forge stronger relations.

It will be recalled that President Duterte met Russian President Putin last November at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima, Peru.

In January, the President visited the Russian large anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, which also anchored in the country for a goodwill visit.

Docking of Russian warship at Manila South Harbor part of goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Docking of Russian warship at Manila South Harbor part of goodwill visit

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said the arrival of Russian warship is part of a goodwill visit with other countries.

“These are four days friendly visit…” said DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar in a radio interview.

Bolivar recalled that the country also welcomed American, French at Australian ships last year as part of goodwill exchanges.

A Russian naval vessel named Varyag on Thursday arrived at the Manila South Harbor. It is the flagship of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy.

The vessel will open for all visitors on April 22 at the Port of Manila, Pier 15.

China to probe alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen in S. China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22): China to probe alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen in S. China Sea

China will also look into reports that Filipino fishermen have been driven away allegedly by the Chinese Coast Guard from Union Bank in the South China Sea, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.

”I honestly do not know anything about what you said. You yourself mentioned that the vessels are unidentified, and all sides are in the process of verifying the situation. China also needs to check on that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a press conference.

The Philippines’ foreign affairs and national defense departments are still confirming media reports on the harassment of the Filipino fishermen.

Lu said China will continue to work with the Philippine side to “properly” resolve the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea maritime and territorial dispute under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

”Our position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. We would go on working with the Philippine side to properly deal with relevant maritime issues and create favorable conditions for the sound and steady development of bilateral relations,” he said.

He reiterated that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China have turned around and started to improve quickly “with all-around cooperation moving forward steadily”.

Five months after his election, President Duterte visited China in October last year at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

President Duterte is scheduled to return to Beijing next month to participate in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

”Overall, both sides are able to build upon the consensus of the two leaders and manage maritime issues through negotiations and coordination,” Lu said.

Special construction troops eyed for Pagasa Island projects: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22): Special construction troops eyed for Pagasa Island projects: Lorenzana

Specialized construction and engineering troops from the Philippine Navy and Air Force will play a key role in the upgrading of various facilities in Pagasa Island, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

This is especially true when it comes to building facilities involving ship docking and unloading of cargoes.

"We must first construct the so-called beaching ramp because if that facility is not yet ready, then we cannot bring in LSTs (landing ship, tanks) to bring in building materiel due to lack of docking facilities. So the beaching ramp is the first priority. The Navy already has a plan to build that and use their Seabees (Naval Construction Brigade) in constructing and completing that project before July," Lorenzana added in Filipino.

Engineering battalions from the Air Force could be deployed if needed.

He disclosed that once the beaching ramp is completed, construction activities can continue even in the most adverse weather as building supplies and engineering equipment can be stockpiled safely and easily.

Construction projects eyed for Pagasa Island include the concreting of the 1.2-km. Rancudo Airstrip, development of ports, installation of additional solar panels and generator sets, desalination plants, new quarters for military personnel, the establishment of a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources marine research and shelter center, and an ice plant for storing fish caught by the islanders.

These projects have a budget of PHP1.6 billion, Lorenzana added.

China alarmed by PHL military officials’ visit to Pagasa Island

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22): China alarmed by PHL military officials’ visit to Pagasa Island

China has lodged representations with the Philippine side following a visit by the Filipino defense and military officials in Pagasa Island, according to the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

”Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side,” Lu Kang said in a press statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry Affairs website.

Last Friday, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año, along with other military officials, visited Pagasa Island, a Philippine-occupied territory that is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

Lu said the move of the Philippines defense and military officials has negated the important consensus reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

”This move runs counter to the important consensus reached between the two leadership, which is to properly deal with the South China Sea issue,” Lu said.

Lu said China is hoping that the Philippine government would continue to cherish a five-decade China-Philippines bilateral relations which rejuvenated under the leadership of President Duterte.

”We hope that the Philippine side could faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leadership, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations,” he said.

Since President Duterte’s visit in China last year, Lu said China and the Philippines have been keeping good communication to properly manage and resolve the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

”We hope that this momentum can continue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

In media reports, Lorenza described the trip to Pagasa Island as a “normal visit within our territory”.

”We believe and we know that this is our territory and I am just visiting to look at the conditions of our people here,” the top Filipino defense official said.

Pagasa Island was occupied by the Philippines in the late 1960s and is categorized as a fifth-class municipality of Palawan province.

Lorenza has revealed a plan to set aside at least PHP1.6 billion to develop Pagasa Island and a proposal by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to build a fish port in the area.