Lamwakers want funds set for Kalayaan island group

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Sunday, July 17, 2011


TWO Mindanao lawmakers have called on the government to put up P1 billion to upgrade structures in the Kalayaan island group.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Representative Maximo Rodriguez, his brother, have filed a bill asking for an allocation of P1 billion for fortifications and the construction of docks and berthing facilities.

"In order to strengthen our claim and protect our sovereignty, we need to build more structures and fortify our defense of these islands, particularly (with) the construction of a safe harbor as well as the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-Asa island,” Rufus Rodriguez said.

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He said the construction of structures in the island group would also give the fifth class municipality a chance at a tourism industry. The Department of Finance classifies municipalities according to their annual income. Fifth-class municipalities make around P15 million to P25 million pesos a year.

Kalayaan island has one barangay, Pag-Asa, and has a population of 300 to 400. Pag-Asa is accessible through a 1.3-kilometer airstrip.

Relations between the Philippines and China have been tested in recent months over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines wants to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea but China said it wants to resolve the issue through bilateral negotiations.

This move was supported by the United States with the introduction of US House Resolution No. 352, which supports the Philippine position for a peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute in the Spratlys and the South China Sea.

“Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario welcomes the introduction of House Resolution No. 352 calling for ‘a peaceful and collaborative resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and its environs and other maritime areas adjacent to the East Asian mainland’ by select members of the United States House of Representatives,” said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Based on the report of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, the DFA noted that the resolution was introduced by United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs chair Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida together with co-sponsors Representative Don Manzullo of Illinois, Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific and Representative Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, a ranking member of the House Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific, last Friday.

Overall, House Resolution had 27 co-sponsors, including 18 Republicans and nine Democrats.

This follows the Senate Resolution, introduced by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, deploring the use of force by China in the South China Sea and calling for a peaceful, multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in Southeast Asia.

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino III said the country will be pushing for an international arbitration on the Spratlys territorial dispute, specifically with the United Nation's International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos).

This, despite the statement of the Chinese government, that it is more willing to settle the Spratlys issue “through direct negotiations between directly-concerned countries” than in the UN-backed panel.

The Spratly Islands is being claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines. ( Jonathan de Santos/AMN/Sunnex)

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