MANILA, Philippines – For showing determination in challenging China’s provocations in the West Philippine Sea, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has been named “an adopted illustrious son of Palawan.”
In bestowing on Catapang the honors, the Palawan Provincial Council cited his personally leading a group of local and foreign media last month to Pag-Asa island – seat of the Kalayaan island town in Palawan – to brief them on the real situation and send a message to China that the Philippines is serious about asserting its sovereignty over its territory.
Catapang retires from the service next month upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
“He was declared an adopted illustrious son of Palawan through Provincial Resolution No. 12050 dated May 19, 2015,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.
Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez signed the resolution adopted by the provincial council headed by Palawan Vice Gov. Victorino Dennis Santos.
The province, through the council, expressed its appreciation for Catapang’s concern as well as his reassurance of protection for the country’s maritime borders.
While in Pag-Asa, Catapang announced his plan to build a vacation house in Kalayaan after his retirement. He said he plans to rent out the house to tourists occasionally, in line with the tourism program of Kalayaan town Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr.
“Gen. Catapang’s initiative in pooling the resources and efforts of the AFP in visiting Pag-Asa Island was also appreciated by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Cabunoc said.
Pag-Asa island is one of the nine areas in the region occupied by Filipino troops.
Meanwhile, Angkla party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo said yesterday the local maritime industry can help secure the country’s territorial waters by building vessels for the Coast Guard and the Navy.
“With what’s happening in the West Philippine Sea, we can – if we all work together – ourselves build our own ships for the Coast Guard, for the Navy and merchant vessels,” Manalo said.
He added public funds should be invested in building and developing national shipyards instead of acquiring used vessels from foreign powers.
Manalo noted the country’s weak or zero deterrent capability in the face of China’s continued reclamation and military construction activities in the West Philippine Sea, as well as piracy and poaching along the country’s extensive coastline.
“We can actually become a peaceful maritime power in the region, and can provide stability. One day, we’ll be shipping fleet owners. We have the manpower, experience and expertise. Let’s believe in ourselves and have a bigger vision for our country,” he said.
He said the Philippines ranks first in Southeast Asia and fourth in the world in terms of ship building, after China, South Korea and Japan. However, most of the major shipyards in the country are foreign-owned.
A paper from the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House of Representatives said the construction of a 320,000-deadweight tonnage commercial ship “shows that the Philippines can build world-class ocean-going vessels.”
The CPBRD also said in 2013, a total of 90 international vessels were ordered from the Philippines, almost double the 48 booked orders in the previous year.
According to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), there are 12 licensed shipyards in the country, with eight having facilities for the construction and repair of big ships. – With Paolo Romero
Read More: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/06/28/1470831/outgoing-afp-chief-now-adopted-son-palawan