Press Release
August 15, 2023


Sen. Chiz Escudero on Tuesday (Aug. 15) said he will propose the allocation of at least P100 million in the 2024 national budget to fund the construction of permanent structures in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to strengthen the country's presence in the contested maritime territory.

"I will propose the allocation of minimum P100 million to fund the construction of a pier and lodging structures for our soldiers assigned in the area, and for our fishermen who might seek temporary refuge in times of bad weather," Escudero said in a brief statement.

"The allocation for Ayungin Shoal will give President Marcos the budget cover should he decide to do (the construction) next year," he said.

"So, what will be given is the congressional authority to build more in the Ayungin," he pointed out, adding that under budget rules, the President can augment any item in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) "so he can increase the budget as he deems fit but subject to existing rules."

The senator explained that while the structure will serve as "lodging" for soldiers in the rusting BRP Sierra Madre, "its primary use is to be a shelter for fishermen from all nations who will be caught in bad weather."

"It will welcome fishermen in distress with warm accommodations and not with a blast of the water cannon. It is there to help and not to harass," he pointed out.

Escudero said the building of the structures has to be rushed because "Sierra Madre's greatest enemy is nature, and it will soon be lost to the sea. Kinakalawang na. Our soldiers should not die from tetanus."

"Its being beached there was supposed to be an ad hoc measure. After almost one-quarter it is time for a permanent solution," he said, suggesting that parts of the structure can be prefabricated on land and be brought there "so there will be no China style of fortification in which the environment is permanently damaged."

Guesting on CNN Philippines' "The Source" later in the day, Escudero elaborated on his proposal, saying the move will give the President some flexibility as the chief architect of the country's foreign policy.

"China built a structure even if it is contested by the Philippines. I don't think anything prevents us from at least allocating funds in order to give the president flexibility to make the accommodations in that shoal more acceptable for our soldiers who are there instead of living in a dilapidated old ship," Escudero said.

He pointed out that the appropriation is the best companion measure to the recently passed Senate resolution on the WPS as the "allocation makes it no longer a mere sense of the Senate resolution."

"This proposal is not designed to anger China or bring us closer to the brink (of war). This is just to give the president flexibility to act as the chief architect of our foreign policy as he deems fit. Otherwise, we will have to wait another year if he decides to do so sometime next year without any budget cover," he said.

The Bicolano senator, moreover, proposed that the planned appropriation be under the budget of civilian agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) or the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

"Civilian agencies such as DPWH or PCG should build this structure so as not to add to the militarization of the area," Escudero pointed out.

"Kung ako ang tatanungin, mas gusto ko sa DPWH dahil hindi naman giyera ang layunin natin dito. Total naman basta infrastructure ang pinag-uusapan, DPWH ang ang iimplement," he added.

News Latest News Feed