Proposed infra upgrades for Kalayaan not meant for military–Gazmin

April 3, 2012 11:53 pm 

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, April 3 – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin on Tuesday said that the proposed beaching ramp and other infrastructure upgrades in the Philippine-owned Kalayaan Island are not meant to boost the country's military presence in the disputed Spratlys Island Group.

"(The beach ramp) is not meant for the military. It is only meant to augment the commercial and tourism development of the island. It's purely for economic growth," he said.

The DND chief also said that the beaching ramp was not meant to develop the existing military post in Kalayaan, adding that the sole goal was to facilitate the easy transport of goods and other items essential to the daily lives of the islanders.

He also said that the beaching ramp would allow Kalayaan-based fishermen to transport their catch to Palawan and Manila where it could been sold for better prices thus improving the economic well-being of the latter.

A refrigeration plant is also being eyed to help fishermen in preserving their catch.

Building the beaching ramp with the help of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) will also aid in bringing construction materials and equipment that allow contractors to improve the existing airstrip in Kalayaan that takes more civilian aircraft traffic.

He also said that the proposed improvements in Kalayaan were expected to cost the government P300 million, wherein the PPA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and other government agencies like the Philippine Navy were expected to pool their resources to make them a reality.

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon earlier said the beaching ramp would be constructed by the PPA with the support of the PN.

He declined to give specifics and costs about the beaching ramp, which is expected to be completed by 2012. The project will allow roll-off/roll-on ships to unload their cargoes directly at Pagasa, sparing residents the task of hauling their basic necessities from the transporting "banca" to the shore.

Bito-onon said that the project's sole purpose was to better the lives of his constituents and provide the latter with some of the basic goods of civilization.

And should the program reaches fruition, the Kalayaan executive said that they would request the PPA to construct a modern port on their municipality to ensure constant communication and resupply from Palawan and other parts of the country.

Kalayaan is a 6th class municipality in the province of Palawan, Philippines.

It is composed of only one barangay, Pag-Asa. This island has a 1.3 km airstrip that is used both by the military and civilians.

It has a regulated civilian population of about 350, most of whom are fishermen. This civilian population is the result of Philippine government initial efforts to put civilians in the Kalayaan.

Once a month, a PN ship goes to this island to drop supplies of goods.

This island has a water-filtering plant, power generators, weather stations and a communication tower which is built by the Philippine-based SMART Telecommunications. (PNA)

RMA/PFN

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