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Military sets up satellite link to troops in Pag-asa island

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Esperon: Not violative of Code of Conduct

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 08:18am (Mla time) 03/25/2008

PAG-ASA ISLAND, Spratlys – The military has set up a satellite communications system here, the largest island occupied by Filipino troops in this disputed and reportedly oil-rich island chain in the South China Sea.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said the installation of the VSAT, or very small aperture terminal, was for “command and control” of troops and did not violate the Code of Conduct among claimant countries to the Spratlys.

The Code of Conduct, signed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, prevents the building up of military forces in the island chain.

With the VSAT system, Esperon said military general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo will have a direct satellite link to troops in Pag-asa island, and seven other islands where Filipino troops are stationed.

“Communications, information is very important, as we all know, that’s why we have the VSAT,” he told reporters.

The military chief said the VSAT system would not be used for intelligence gathering in the Spratlys. “It’s simply for command and control,” he said.

Asked if the AFP’s move was in violation of the Code of Conduct, Esperon said: “Not at all. Setting up communications [equipment] is not a violation.”

Only one mobile telephone service is available in Pag-asa Island, and is available only from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. due to limited electricity supply.

Aside from the VSAT, Esperon also brought sacks of rice, DVD movies, and a brand new television set for troops here.

Around 60 soldiers are stationed on eight islands in the Spratlys, which the Philippines has named the Kalayaan Group of Islands, majority of which are in Pag-asa Island.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-03-26T05:59:33+00:00UTC03bUTCWed, 26 Mar 2008 05:59:33 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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