AFP to set up new coastal defense post in Cagayan
The Armed Forces of the Philippines plans to use a recently acquired 25-hectare land on Calayan Island, a remote island in Cagayan province south of Taiwan, as part of the country’s coastal defense system, the military said on Thursday.
In ceremonies on Wednesday, Calayan town officials led by Mayor Joseph Llopis turned over to the military the property they had donated at Barangay Dilam in the northeastern portion of the island, the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said.
“Calayan, as a strategic location, will help the AFP and the Philippine Marine Corps fulfill our mandate of protecting the people and securing the state,” said Nolcom chief Lt. Gen. Fernyl Buca.
Philippine Marine Corps commandant Maj. Gen. Arturo Rojas said the donation would help achieve the goal of establishing a strong coastal defense for the country.
The Marine’s Coastal Defense Regiment will soon acquire BrahMos missiles that could be positioned on the island, which also has an airport capable of accommodating light planes.
The Nolcom was grateful to the local government for the “gesture of their profound commitment to supporting the AFP’s mission of safeguarding the nation.”
The Navy received a 5-ha property on the same island earlier this year. Nolcom said that piece of land would “substantially augment the flexibility and effectiveness of archipelagic coastal defense in the northern fringes of the country.”
Calayan Island is part of the third-class municipality of Calayan, which is comprised of four islands that form the Babuyan Islands. The island has a population of about 17,000 and an area of 19,600 ha. The Babuyan chain, which includes the islands of Babuyan, Dalupiri, and Camiguin, lies in the Luzon Strait and connects the Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea.
People travel to Calayan mostly on boats coming from the towns of Claveria and Aparri in Cagayan, about 210 kilometers to the south. The I-Cagayano website describes the island as a “paradise” that is home to rich marine resources with a big tourism potential because of its pristine white beaches and cliffs with breathtaking views of the sea.
It is about 310 km from the southern tip of Taiwan, a self-governing island that is claimed by China—a claim backed by Beijing’s declaration that it would not rule out the use of force to take it back.
American troops have been given access to two sites in Cagayan province where they could establish their presence under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between Manila and Washington.
There has been no word on whether the Americans also were considering adding the Calayan military facility to the five Philippine military bases where they now have a presence and an additional four which they now have been given access under Edca.
Beijing has warned that the stationing of US forces in the northern Philippines could draw the country into the China-Taiwan conflict and endanger the lives and livelihood of over 150,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.
Nolcom said that the military’s presence in Calayan would ensure prompt government response during natural disasters and humanitarian missions, guaranteeing the welfare of the people in the northern region.
Troops from the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 are stationed on Calayan, a “preferred venue” for various military exercises, including those with the United States and Japan, according to Nolcom.
A joint military exercise involving members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would be held in the South China Sea later this year, according to a report by Indonesia’s Antara News Agency.
The Asean military chiefs agreed to stage the exercise in the North Natuna Sea near Indonesia in September and it would be called the AseanSolidity Exercise (ENatuna) or Asec01N,” Indonesian chief of National Defense Force Admiral Yudo Margono was quoted as saying in the report.
A Philippine military official privy to the agreement confirmed to the Inquirer such plans but the AFP has yet to make an official statement.
Regional defense and military chiefs were in Bali for the Asean chief of defense forces meeting. A small delegation led by AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino attended.
The planned exercises, which will bring together Asean armies, navies, and air forces, will focus on humanitarian missions and not combat operations, the report said.
Multinational naval drills “Komodo” hosted by Indonesia wrapped up on Thursday in South Sulawesi. China and 31 other countries participated in the drills. The Philippines was represented by a 193-strong contingent led by Navy Commander Paul Michael Hechanova and the BRP Andres Bonifacio. “The exercise emphasizes military operations other than war with navies responding to natural disasters, humanitarian assistance and maritime threats,” the Philippine Navy said.