(PHILSTAR) PAG-ASA ISLAND, Kalayaan, Philippines — Senate national defense committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada visited yesterday this tiny island-community in Palawan to see for himself what needs to be done to beef up its defenses and protect the livelihood of its citizens being threatened by encroaching Chinese coast guards and militia ships.
The senator arrived on the island in a C-295 military transport aircraft, with several members of the media in tow.
Assisting Estrada during the inspection were Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Andres Centino, Naval Forces West commanding general Comm. Alan Javier, Philippine Air Force commanding general Lt. Gen. Stephen Parreño and several other military officers. Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo joined the inspection.
“I support all the programs. We hope to further boost the military capability here,” Estrada said after being informed of the AFP’s request for P650 million worth of projects to boost the 32-hectare island’s defense capability.
The senator also expressed belief the community on Pag-asa Island is generally safe from hostile acts by the Chinese.
“Based on the briefing, I believe the community here is safe,” Estrada told reporters who joined him during the visit.
Projects inspected by Estrada include the ongoing repair of runway erosion and prevention control, which is reportedly 77.37 percent complete, concreting of the runway and parking apron which is 91.216 percent complete, and construction of facilities for the PAF still also in progress.
As the aircraft carrying the visitors approached the island, some journalists received text messages, which read, “Welcome to CHINA! Your well-being matters to us so we’ve made data roaming more accessible with Roam Surf 399 and faster with 5G Roaming. Connect to CMCC to enjoy 5G in select areas.”
Estrada inquired from Javier about the eight vessels stationed at about three to four nautical miles from Pag-asa Island. The military officer said the ships belong to China.
Javier said they usually issue “radio challenges” to the vessels and their crew would respond sometimes. Most of the intruders were Chinese, he said.