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For many years, the Philippines has been without an official military base, but this is about to change. Situated just 80 kilometres from Taiwan, a structure is being built to house military operations and personnel. This surprising turn of events has allegedly come about to try and deter the prolific illegal fishing operations that blight the local area. According to the plans, which were announced at the beginning of 2018, there was a serious problem with poaching, which is now considered significant enough to warrant military involvement. Lieutenant-Colonel Isagani Nato, who is the spokesperson for the Northern Luzon Command of the Philippines explained:
“We are going to put up a facility to guard our maritime domain against poaching during the fishing period.”
(Quote from News Channel Asia)
The building itself will be located on the north side of Mavulis Island, which is part of the larger Batanes Island chain. This is a very significant move for the Philippines and in many ways demonstrates a new, more active approach to national security. Facing an ever-increasing threat of poaching and other issues, especially from vessels coming from China, the country has now decided to introduce more robust measures to improve the situation.
First thought to be a fisherman’s shelter, this structure was first mentioned by the Inquirer in 2018, in a story that discussed the building on Y’ami Island. (Also known as Mavulis) The construction of the shelter was closely watched by the Taiwanese Navy and in May, a news outlet confirmed that it was built for use by civilians as well as military officials. The Inquirer ran a story in May that explained the defence department handed the building over to the government.
Ricardo David, Defence secretary said:
“This is AFP’s gesture of support to the Filipino fishermen and manifest our commitment in protecting our sovereignty and asserting our ownership in this territory,”
As China increases its assertiveness and hostility in the South China Sea, Manila is committed to revamping its naval forces and increasing patrols of its maritime territory to safeguard its fisheries and outlying islands.
Seemingly, the Philippines are aware of China’s increasing activity in this area of the South China sea and have decided to take some additional action to protect their maritime territory. The fisheries and waters around the outlying islands are of concern as this is where the majority of the poaching and other illegal activity has been taking place.
At the present time, the scale and potential scope of the operation is largely unknown. Whether the base will be one off or whether they may be others on the surrounding islands remains to be seen.
Ultimately, this development shows the Philippines are taking their national security very seriously and aren’t afraid to demonstrate their potential military strength. It also proves the government and the military have a great interest in protecting the livelihoods of the local fishermen and other people involved in the maritime industries.