CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The US military is reportedly developing three “mini naval bases” in Palawan allegedly to monitor developments in the South China Sea where the country has territorial disputes with China.
“We learned from different groups in Palawan that Washington has started developing military-purposed ports in three strategic areas in the province, including Puerto Princesa, Brooks Point and another near Cuyo Island,” said Anakpawis chair Fernando Hicap who recently led a 15-member “Sovereignty and Environmental Mission” at the Tubbataha Reef where a US military vessel ran aground recently.
Hicap cited “environmental groups and people’s organizations based in Palawan” as saying the mini ports “are meant to host US troops who are tasked to check and even engage China if the current word war on Spratlys between Manila and Beijing turns into a shooting war.”
Hicap said he and members of his mission were “still checking the veracity of reports that the January 17 grounding of USS Guardian was intentionally done to give premium to US longer stay in Palawan and help local authorities in the rehabilitation program of Tubbataha Reef, thus, allowing US troops to stay longer under the guise of Tubbataha rehab and restoration.”
For his part, Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) vice chairperson Salvador France cited fisherfolk andsectoral-based organizations in Palawan as reporting that “the United States is planning to establish an advance Marine command post in Palawan facing the West Philippine Sea.”
“Each mini naval US post is capable of hosting 50 to 60 Marines on rotation basis,” noted France, citing reports that the US plan would “involve the conversion of a 246-hectare Philippine Marine Corps reservation in Samariniana town into a joint marine operational command.”
He expressed fears that “the US wants to maximize the strategic military position of Palawan in dealing with China and the problems that would further arise from the Manila-Beijing conflict.”
France also cited reports as early last year that the “US will shut down its covert military facilities in Zamboanga peninsula and will move US forces to Palawan.”
Hicap’s fact-finding mission which stayed in Palawan recently also said it found out that “the US will build a 2.5 kilometer airstrip inside the Marine reservation to accommodate big US military transport planes.”
Last year Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list were informed about the US plan to build naval ports for joint operation bases in Oyster Bay, Ulugan Bay, Macarasca town, Puerto Princesa City, Tarumpitao Point in Rizal and San Vicente town.
“Once these mini naval bases are finished, the US will rotate 4,000 US troops on regular basis and they will be hosted by these naval bases. The number of US troops that will be rotated in the country will be between 4,000 to 4,500, including Marines based in Okinawa, Japan,” Pamalakaya said in a statement.