Rep. Winston Castelo of the 2nd District of Quezon City on Wednesday described as a step in the right direction the planned construction of a naval base in Palawan opposite the disputed Spratly islands, saying it would send a message to the international community that the Philippines is not sitting down on China’s perceived threats of hegemony.
In a statement, Castelo, chair of the House committee on Metro Manila Development, said the country’s political leadership is disturbed by the rushed construction of military bases by China in six different reef areas inside the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
He said the completion by the Chinese of their construction activities can lead to fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, missiles and heavily armed warships from China to be deployed in the area.
“Although it will be close to impossible to remove them, the Philippines should not take the issue sitting down, as it seeks the support of the international community to compel China to dismantle those bases and lessen the tension in that part of the world,” Castelo added.
Castelo made the statement as Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the construction of the naval base in the western coastline of Palawan is a priority despite funding problems.
The military chief said naval vessels of the United States, Japan, Vietnam and other countries would be allowed to make port calls upon the completion of the port facility in Oyster Bay in Palawan.
But Catapang said the proposed naval base would provide essentially civilian services like weather forecast, and search and rescue operations.
Castelo described as “dangerous” for the Philippines and other surrounding countries the reported construction by China of the military facilities in the Spratlys, as he likened it to the same situation for which then US President John Kennedy risked going to war when the then Soviet Union was about to establish missile bases in Cuba.