MANILA Improving all existing facilities in the municipality of Kalayaan, which is located in Pag-asa Island, is the government's constitutional mandate, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
The defense chief made the remark in the wake of reports that China has deployed a paramilitary force in response to ongoing rehabilitation efforts in the island late last year.
"Improving the safety, welfare, livelihood, and personal security of Filipinos in the municipality of Kalayaan, a distinct and separate town under the province of Palawan, is the government's Constitutional mandate. Kalayaan has been part of the sovereignty of the Philippines since 1978, by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1596 and international laws," Lorenzana said in a statement.
He also emphasized that the DND has always been open and transparent in conveying and fulfilling the government's desire to improve the living conditions of both the civilian and military citizens in the community of Barangay Pag-asa, the largest of the nine islands in the municipality comprising the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).
"The presence of militia on the Chinese man-made structures is no surprise to us as they have been there since 2012. We expect other countries to respect Philippine sovereignty, and to conduct themselves in a civilized manner befitting members of the global community," Lorenzana said.
The other islands in the KIG are Kota Island, Parola Cay, Patag Reef, Likas Island, Lawak Island, Panata Cay, Rizal Reef, and Ayungin Shoal.
Among the facilities being constructed or upgraded in Pag-asa are the beaching ramp that will be completed by the first quarter of this year, air strip (Rancudo Airfield), better barracks for soldiers, desalination facilities, sewage disposal system, conventional and renewable power generators, lighthouses, shelters, and storage facilities for fishermen.
"These planned modest improvements are basic but nonetheless highly essential in delivering social services to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of Filipino citizens on the island," Lorenzana added.
The DND chief also bared that these improvements have undergone careful planning and consideration, with full respect to international law and rules-based order governing civilized states.
"Implementing these improvements is a legitimate undertaking, and well within our rights as a sovereign nation," he added. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency