Press Release
November 7, 2023


As the Senate opens floor debates on the 2024 national budget this week, Sen. Chiz Escudero said funding for new facilities at the Ayungin Shoal and Kalayaan Island, the country's frontline posts in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), "is a done deal in the Senate."

Senators are unanimous in putting funds in next year's budget for building structures "meant not for aggression but for the welfare of our soldiers stationed there," Escudero said.

In August, Escudero was the first senator to formally propose the construction of a floating wharf at Ayungin that will also serve "as a bad weather refuge for vessels regardless of the flag they are carrying."

He recommended an initial 100 million for the project, to be booked under the Department of Transportation (DOTR) or the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) "to underscore its peaceful purpose."

But other senators suggested a bigger appropriation, such as the P1 billion put forward by Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

Noting that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri had also backed his proposal, "I would now hold them to their assurance, and the best proof would be in the 2024 appropriations bill."

Escudero said he will also insist that the infrastructure budget for the country's "biggest real estate" in the WPS, the 37-hectare Kalayaan Island, which hosts air and naval stations, should be increased.

"Bakit naman kasi P80 million para sa dalawang maliit na proyekto sa Kalayaan ang ipinanukala ng administrasyon sa 2024 national budget? They should back up their rhetoric with resources. Anger is good but appropriations are better," Escudero said, referring to the proposed two-story military barracks and an igloo-type ammunition storage each costing P40 million and lodged under the budget of the DPWH.

"WPS is a hotspot. Unless you've been living under the rock, you cannot miss what's happening there. These are large blips in our radar but these escaped detection by those who prepared the budget," he said.

"It's a natural formation, not reclaimed by man, and what is expected of us is to protect it from being eroded. Hindi na tayo gagastos ng bilyones," he added.

Fund augmentation, Escudero said, should go to the improvement of the Rancudo Airfield and the Liwanag Naval Station in the island.

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