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Military engineers to renovate Pag-asa airstrip

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:46:00 03/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Military engineers will refurbish the airstrip on the largest Filipino-occupied island in the disputed Spratlys group after a private contractor backed out of the project, the chief of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said Friday.

Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog said the barracks of soldiers stationed on Pag-asa Island will be renovated to concrete and semi-concrete structures.

Cadungog said the infrastructure improvements on the island would not violate the Code of Conduct among claimant countries to the reportedly oil-rich islands, which prevents the buildup of military forces there.

“We are free to go there anytime. [There is] no violation [of the Code of Conduct] at all,” Cadungog told reporters at Villamor Airbase, the PAF headquarters.

Last Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. visited Pag-asa Island and brought with him a satellite communications system that will connect troops on the island to military general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Asked if he was worried the planned construction on Pag-asa would trigger protests from other claimants, Cadungog said: “Not actually a lot of protests because they [other claimants] have their own occupied islands, like Vietnam [and] China

“As a matter of fact we are the legitimate claimant, as a sovereign country therefore they cannot complain about it. We are supposed to be the one complaining because those occupied islands by other countries are not supposed to be theirs,” he said.

However, Cadungog acknowledged that “relationships among friendly countries” in the Spratlys should be preserved.

The private contractor was supposed to refurbish the Pag-asa airstrip for P31 million but backed out unless the project cost was raised to around P100 million, Cadungog said.

Cadungog said the contract was scrapped with the P3.1-million performance bond that the construction firm submitted to the government, which represents 10 percent of the project cost, to be forfeited.

Asked if the refurbishing of the airstrip was meant to strengthen military presence on the island, Cadungog said: “Not necessarily strengthening, [but] providing presence.”

The PAF chief said Navy ships will start hauling building materials from Puerto Princesa in Palawan to Pag-asa Island next month, to take advantage of calm seas during the summer.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-03-28T07:51:46+00:00UTC03bUTCFri, 28 Mar 2008 07:51:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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