PH asserts sovereignty over 11 islands in Northern Luzon

Published August 26, 2020, 1:19 PM

by Freddie G. Lazaro & Roy C. Mabasa

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Personnel of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) have completed the construction and installation of sovereign markers in 11 uninhabited islands in the northern part of the Philippines. 

Personnel of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) and Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) have completed the construction and installation of sovereign markers in 11 uninhabited islands in the northern part of the Philippines. (Screen grab from Naval Forces Northern Luzon / MANILA BULLETIN)
Personnel of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) and Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) have completed the construction and installation of sovereign markers in 11 uninhabited islands in the northern part of the Philippines. (Screen grab from Naval Forces Northern Luzon / MANILA BULLETIN)

NFNL spokesman Navy Lieutenant Jaypee B. Abuan said on Wednesday that the markers were completed and formally unveiled on August 18. 

“The sovereign marker symbolizes the assertion of our country’s absolute sovereignty over the 11 uninhabited islands and over the surrounding territorial waters. This also signifies actual physical occupation and development efforts that remove any doubt on the Philippines’ ownership of these islands,” he said. 

These 11 islands, which belong to the Babuyan Island Group and Batanes Group of Islands, were Ali Island, Dinem Island, Siayan Island and Misanga Island, all in Itbayat, Batanes; Vohos Island and Dequey Island, both in Sabtang, Batanes; Pinon Island, Pamoctan Island and Balintang Island, all in Calayan, Cagayan; and Palaui Island and Dos Hermanas Island, both in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. 

The instruction for Nolcom and NFNL to construct and install sovereign markers in the northern-most uninhabited islands came directly from President Duterte during his visit last year when he made his aerial inspection of the earthquake-stricken island of Itbayat. 

The 11 islands were selected based on their strategic relevance. These islands are conspicuously located at the fringes of the island clusters of the Babuyan Group of Islands (BGI) and the Batanes Island Group (BIG), making the sovereign markers clearly visible to ships transiting the waterways connecting the West Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health regulations imposing community quarantine, the completion of the sovereign markers project took six months. 

Inclement weather and unfavorable sea conditions were also among the challenges encountered by the construction team. 

Abuan said the Philippine Navy continues to intensify its efforts in securing and protecting the northern maritime territory of the country. 

Regular conduct of surface maritime patrols and maritime air surveillance around and over our northern islands have been doubled to prevent any unauthorized foreign incursions. 

The Navy is also in the process of installing Littoral Monitoring Stations (LMS) in strategic locations in the North which will enable the Navy to observe the activities of all transiting vessels in the area, be it merchant or military. 

Territorial dispute 

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has strongly rejected the proposal to post a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) attaché in Beijing, citing its implication to the country’s exclusive sovereignty over its coastal waters off the West Philippines Sea. 

“Flat NO. We have a Defense attaché for national defense issues,” Locsin said in a tweet Tuesday night. 

Locsin explained that a separate Coast Guard attaché means “we concede exclusive sovereignty over our coastal waters so they are now subject to discussion instead of automatic protest.” 

The DFA chief’s social media post was apparently in reaction to the reported “proposal” reached during a high-level meeting between the Philippines and China’s coast guards last January where both sides “recognized the importance of designating a coast guard attaché.” 

In that meeting, the Philippines and Chinese coast guards expressed their desire to establish a “hotline communication mechanism” and “communication protocol for engagement at sea” to increase cooperation between Manila and Beijing. 

Locsin’s objection came several days after the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China over the Chinese Coast Guard’s illegal confiscation of fish aggregating devices belonging to Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in May. 

In the same protest, the Philippines also objected to China’s continuing “illicit issuances of radio challenges” to Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea. 

In response, China accused the Philippines of “illegal provocations,” saying the sending of military aircraft to patrol the Spratlys “infringes on China’s sovereignty and security.”

 
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