MANILA – Development projects in Pag-asa Island are expected to go full blast with the completion and turnover of its beaching ramp, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday.
“Once operational (beaching ramp), we can go full blast already. Any project here, mga barracks ng mga sundalo (barracks of soldiers) bahay ng mga tao dito (houses of people living here) eskwelahan (schools), electricity, power, solar siguro tsaka (and) diesel hybrid, everything, we will improve this,” he said in a media interview.
Lorenzana said the purpose of these developments is to develop Pag-asa Island into a viable community.
Among these development plans, he added, is the installation of a radio broadcasting center.
“We will put out money here. Si (Department of Transportation) Secretary (Arthur) Tugade, kita niyo yung fishermen’s shelter? (You saw his fishermen’s shelter?) Magtatayo din siya ng ice plant (he will also put up an ice plant) so that the fishermen can deposit their catch para hindi masisira ang mga huli (so that their catch will not spoil),” Lorenzana said.
He is also looking at the possibility of constructing another beaching ramp to carry equipment and supplies to other Philippine-claimed territories in the Spratlys Island chain.
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 said there are no plans to militarize Pag-asa Island and soldiers deployed are only armed for protection.
“We will not militarize this. I call it militarization if we bring in other weapons that are heavy like cannons or missiles. We will not do that here,” he added.
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),” Lorenzana said.
Prior to the turnover of the beaching ramp, 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)