ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has expressed his gratitude to the House of Representatives led by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez for recognizing the need to strengthen the nation’s defense resources after their visit to Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea on Thursday.
During a press conference held Thursday night at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City, Brawner praised Speaker Romualdez for his commitment to bolstering national security, which is crucial for supporting the AFP’s mission in safeguarding the country’s interests in WPS.
“The name of the game in the [WPS] is effective presence. It means whoever is there has control of that specific area,” Brawner said, as he underscored the symbolism of Pag-asa Island as a representation of Philippine sovereignty and rights.
Brawner expressed his enthusiasm for Romualdez’s invitation to visit Pag-asa and pointed out significant improvements on the island, such as the transition from a dirt runway to a concrete one, the introduction of electricity, and expanded facilities, including an enhanced port for local fishermen.
“Well, of course, that makes me feel very happy. In fact, I’m happy that the speaker invited me to come with him to Pag-asa. This is my third time to visit the island, Pag-asa Island. And the last time I was there, the runway, the surface of the runway was still dirt. But this time when we landed, we landed on concrete. It was very nice. It was extended. And I also saw that there was electricity already in the area. The last time I was there, there was no electricity,” Brawner said.
However, Brawner cited the ongoing need for development not only on Pag-asa Island but also on the other Filipino-occupied features in the WPS.
He disclosed that the AFP is actively seeking increased funding from Congress to enhance infrastructure and living conditions for military personnel and locals.
In response, Speaker Romualdez expressed deep appreciation to Brawner and reaffirmed the House of Representatives’ unwavering support for the AFP.
“Maraming salamat to the Chief of Staff and the men and women of the [AFP]. You make us very proud and help is on its way. We have no less than the House leadership and the appropriations chairman [Zaldy Co of Ako Bicol partylist] there, and we saw for ourselves how important the service and the sacrifice you all do out there for us in Kalayaan,” Speaker Romualdez said in the same press conference.
The leader of the 300-plus strong legislative chamber expressed his appreciation for the crucial role played by the AFP in ensuring the security and success of the House’s mission to Pag-asa Island.
“We are so happy and proud to have no less than our Chief of Staff, Gen. Romeo Brawner, accompanying us throughout the day. We felt secure and relaxed,” the Speaker said.
Speaker Romualdez even suggested the island’s potential as a resort due to the sense of security it offers, enhanced by the sight of a Philippine naval vessel on the horizon.
The House chief also noted the paramount importance of the Kalayaan Group of Islands, of which Pag-asa Island is an integral part, within the Philippine territory.
“Napakaganda at napakaimportante itong bahagi ng ating bansa, the Kalayaan Group of Islands,” the Speaker said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Romualdez acknowledged the collective efforts of the personnel from the AFP and various government agencies during the visit.
“You will be proud to see what everyone is doing there for the Philippines, everyone —the men and women in uniform and services, and the residents there, they are true heroes because as the Chief of Staff said, that is in the furthest most point, ang layo na nga eh. We are all the way out, out there at the edge literally,” Speaker Romualdez said.
The trip to Pag-asa Island also included House Majority Leader Mannix M. Dalipe, House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Zaldy Co.