By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has started the construction of five lighthouses on islands within the West Philippine Sea to ensure safety of navigation, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed Wednesday.
Esperon, appearing in a media forum in Manila, said the lighthouses are being built on Pag-asa, Likas, Parola, Patag, and Kota islands, all part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands. The construction of the lighthouses is estimated to cost P10 million.
“Lighthouses are also now being constructed on features held by the Philippines to ensure safety of navigation, along our responsibility under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to provide navigational safety for all international vessels transiting the West Philippine Sea,” Esperon said in his statement.
Esperon said the government was also upgrading the port and airstrip facilities in Pag-asa Island as part of its efforts to promote the welfare of Filipinos living in the area.
“This is necessary for trade, the preservation of the livelihood of the fisherfolk, and the timely delivery of basic necessities of the community in the Municipality of Pag-asa,” he added.
Esperon said the upgrading of the Pag-asa runway would also allow the government to send regular supplies to troops guarding the territory and its residents. “What is more important is upgrading facilities for the comfort of our people,” he said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
The Philippines and China have overlapping claims in the South China Sea believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources. Tension mounted in the disputed region amid China built artificial islands and fortified these features with military facilities.
Despite China’s military buildup, President Duterte has ruled out the use of force or violence to settle the territorial row in the South China Sea He said he still prefers to pursue peaceful dialogue with China instead of resorting to combative approach.
Malacañang recently said President Duterte was expected to visit Pag-asa Island within his term to assert the country’s sovereignty over the territory.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President also intends to check the plight of the Filipinos living in the far-flung island, which is part of the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.
Last year, the President was supposed to plant the country’s flag on Pag-asa Island during the country’s Independence Day celebration. Duterte, however, cancelled the plan in deference to the country’s revitalized friendly relations with China.
Pag-asa Island is the second largest and the only Philippine-occupied territory in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.