01 August 2013

Navy, Air Force transfer to Subic still under study

The Department of National of Defense yesterday said a plan to transfer Navy and Air Force units to Subic in Zambales is a result of a “confluence of events,” including the South China Sea dispute.

The plan is still in the discussion stage. It was formulated last year amid moves to develop Sangley Point in Cavite City and Clark Air Base in Angeles City, said DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez.

Sangley Point is home of the Philippine Fleet, a major unit under the Navy. Clark Air Base is the home of the 1st Air Division of the Air Force.

“It just so happened that there was confluence of events,” said Galvez.

“We’re looking into how this may be implemented. As to the specific timeline, there none,” he also said.

“It’s a requirement of the AFP to perform its mandate. At the same time, it’s also parallel with our modernization,” he said, adding that assets that will be acquired in the modernization may be based in Subic.

Galvez also noted that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is taking over Sangley Point while there is a move for a commercial expansion in Clark Air Base to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

“It’s to address all our security defense concerns in Northern Luzon and surrounding maritime domain,” said Galvez when asked if the South China Sea dispute was also taken into consideration in the planning.

It is in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea where the disputed Spratly Islands is situated. The chain of islands and islets is being claimed in part or in whole by Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

“It (Subic) has always been looked into as a very good area for us to address issues in the western side (of the country). There are maritime issues there (in Zambales) also, protection of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone, monitoring our maritime domain so confluence of all these factors,” he said.

Subic is more than a 120 nautical miles away from the Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal which is disputed by China and Philippines. China is in virtual control of the shoal following a standoff in April last year.

Galvez said the location of Subic is “very strategic to address whatever issue there may be in the west side of our country.”

He said Subic has a deep water port that can accommodate large ships, including the Hamilton-class cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, another Hamilton-class cutter which is due to arrive in the country this week.(Victor Reyes, Malaya)