MANILA – Military and local government officials held a flag-raising ceremony Thursday at Pag-asa Island as part of the celebration of the country’s 117th Independence Day amid increased tension in the region.
In a press briefing, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunos said it has become a tradition to raise the flag at the Philippine-occupied island during Independence Day.
“That’s already a tradition during simultaneous flag-raising ceremony. That’s already a tradition in Pag-asa to have flag-raising ceremony. This will be led by local government officials and of course with the presence of our troops deployed there in the area,” he said.
Pag-asa Island serves as the seat of government of Kalayaan town in Palawan. The town was created in June 1978 by then President Ferdinand Marcos, by virtue of Presidential Decree 1596.
The island is under the political jurisdiction of Palawan, but is under the custody and administration of the AFP.
“This is one way of showing that the island, where we have troops deployed, is owned by the Philippines and our soldiers are ready to defend and protect it from any armed aggression,” Cabunoc said of the flag-raising ceremony.
Tension remains high in the region, brought about by China’s reclamation works in several reefs. Authorities fear the construction would lead to the establishment of air and naval facilities that will affect freedom of navigation in the area.
Asked whether there will be similar flag-raising ceremonies in the eight other Philippine-occupied areas in the West Philippine Sea, Cabunoc said: “There might be ceremonial (activities) because we have flags flying there.”
China and the Philippines are involved in a territorial dispute over islands in the West Philippine Sea. Aside from the two countries, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim some areas in the Spratly Islands.
Meanwhile, Cabunoc said there are no reported security threats against President Benigno Aquino III, who will be leading the Independence Day celebration in Iloilo City.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang will be joining the President in Iloilo.
“So far, there are no threats, any armed threats monitored. But the AFP and the PNP are proactive. They are in coordination to address in case some will sow violence,” said Cabunoc.
He added that groups will be allowed to stage protest rallies.
“We are allowing them to stage rallies but they should avoid actions that may hurt others or sow violence,” said Cabunoc.
In Metro Manila, the military’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region will augment the police force in ensuring peace and order in the metro. Augmentation forces include soldiers and K-9 units who will be deployed in different areas.
Despite the security measures in place, Cabunoc appealed to the public to be vigilant.
“Report to Armed Forces units or to the PNP if you monitor people with suspicious baggage or individuals acting suspiciously in their respective areas,” Cabunoc also said.
Read More: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/06/11/15/flag-raising-ceremony-be-held-pag-asa-island