Deploy PNP-MG gunboats to Pag-asa Island – Pimentel

November 2, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 146 views

SURIGAO del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel said he expects the Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNP-MG) to permanently deploy two of its newly acquired high-speed gunboats to Pag-asa Island at the northeastern section of the disputed Spratly archipelago.

“The police maritime group already has a new detachment of eight officers led by a major positioned in Pag-asa. We should reinforce them with a couple of gunboats to protect our waters there with seaborne patrols,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel is a staunch backer of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

“For border protection against smugglers, we also want the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Enforcement Group’s Water Patrol Division to deploy two of its newly procured fast patrol boats to Pag-asa.

They can function as an extension of the bureau’s Puerto Princesa City sub-station,” Pimentel said.

“We should populate Pag-asa with as many relevant agencies as possible while encouraging more civilians, particularly fisherfolk, to live and work there,” Pimentel said.

“The other countries that claim the Spratly archipelago either as a whole or in part are clearly increasing their visibility on the islands, reefs, and shoals that they’ve occupied there. We should do the same,” Pimentel said.

Pag-asa has been occupied by the Philippines since 1970. The low-lying 37.2-hectare island lies some 480 kilometers northwest of Puerto Princesa City.

Surrounded by shallow coral ranges, Pag-asa is the largest landmass of the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Besides Pag-asa, the Kalayaan Island Group also includes the islets of Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag, and Panata, and Balagtas Reef, Ayungin Shoal, and Rizal Shoal.

On June 11, 1978, then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. issued Presidential Decree No. 1596, which created the Municipality of Kalayaan over the Kalayaan Island Group under the Province of Palawan.

The Kalayaan municipal government is based in Pag-asa, which is also the town’s lone barangay.

A sixth-class municipality, Kalayaan is the least populated town in the Philippines, with only 193 residents who all live in Pag-asa, according to the 2020 census.

Pag-asa has a small military detachment led by a lieutenant. The Philippine Navy (PN) also runs the Naval Station Emilio Liwanag on the island, while the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has a sub-station there.

The Department of National Defense (DND), in 2020, built a beaching ramp on Pag-asa to facilitate the delivery of construction equipment and materials needed to repair the island’s dilapidated 1.3-kilometer airstrip.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr, in 2021, also put a sheltered port on Pag-asa for Filipino fishing vessels, while the state-run National Power Corp. energized the island with diesel generating sets with a capacity of 300kW.