THE chairperson of the House strategic intelligence committee has filed a bill seeking to earmark an initial P5 billion for the installation of a dozen naval outposts that are meant to secure the country’s maritime domain against all forms of foreign encroachment.
“We are duty-bound to protect and preserve the vast natural gas deposits as well as the lush marine life in our strategic waters for the enjoyment of future generations of Filipinos,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) fired off another diplomatic protest on Friday against the persistent deployment and “illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels” around Pag-asa Island, and demanded their withdrawal.
Under Pimentel’s House Bill (HB) 9420, or the proposed Philippine Navy Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) Act, four of the facilities shall be positioned in Luzon’s western seaboard and three in the eastern coast.
The FOBs envisioned to guard the West Philippine Sea shall be established in Lubang Island in Mindoro Occidental; Subic Bay in Zambales; and in the Palawan towns of Busuanga and Balabac.
Those intended to keep watch over the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) shall be put up in Polillo Island in Quezon, and in towns of Divilacan and Casiguran in Isabela and Aurora, respectively.
Five other FOBs shall also be built in Mavulis Island in Batanes; Allen, Northern Samar; Surigao City; Sarangani, Davao Occidental; and in Mapun Island in Tawi-Tawi.
The bill defines an FOB as an outpost where the Navy can carry out its basic functions and duties, and which can later be upgraded and expanded for national security purposes.
“We expect the outposts to serve as the future staging and resupply sites for the Navy’s new generation of warships and battle craft,” Pimentel said.
On top of the two multi-role guided missile frigates recently put into service, the Philippine Navy is procuring 16 new warships – another four frigates and 12 corvettes – between now and 2028.
It is also buying 18 offshore patrol vessels, 40 fast attack interdiction craft and 42 smaller multi-purpose assault boats.