The fishermen and municipal workers and families that live on Pag-asa Island form the most isolated civilian community in the Republic of the Philippines. The island, the largest of eight (8) Philippine occupied coral outcroppings in the Municipality of Kalayaan, is approximately 509 kilometers northwest of Puerto Princessa and 828 kilometers southwest of Metro Manila. Once a strictly a military installation, Pag-asa was opened to civilian settlement in 2002.
Since the creation of the settlement, the Municipal government of Kalayaan has established facilities that provided vital public services that were expected of a functional community. Pag-asa has a power station consisting of a solar panel farm charging a bank of 48 batteries as well a conventional fossil-fueled generator to provide for the island’s electrical needs. The island’s reverse osmosis plant converts seawater into potable drinking water that residents collect, on a from the plant. Water for domestic use is piped into individual homes.
Smart Telecommunications established a cell site, connected to its main network via VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal), on the island in 2005 making normal GSM-based cellphone communication with the island possible. The first call on the system took place on June 12 at 5:18 PM between the mayor of the municipality at the time and a Smart Telecom executive. The company completed a maintenance visit to the cell site in 2011, thus ensuring continued operation of the facility.
In 2012, the municipal government entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Education to establish the Pag-asa Elementary School. There are currently 24 children that call Pag-asa, Kalayaan home. Fourteen are from fishing families, while the other 10 are children of municipal workers. Children of the latter go to school in Palawan. As of last year, 8 of the 14 enrolled in the Pag-asa Elementary School. Five were still too young to go to school and were candidates for the next school year. One child was un-enrolled. By mid-school year, the teaching staff at the school had expanded to two teachers. The school started with municipality’s multi-purpose hall which residents converted for its current purpose. Two buildings will be added this year. One funded by the Ayala Foundation is currently under construction. Another is being funded by the Provincial Governor of Palawan.
Continued development of the island and the rest of the municipality, however, hinges on the availability of reliable and regular transportation to the rest of the province of Palawan and the Philippines as a whole. This would facilitate the transport of goods and materials to the islands, and promote socio-economic activity — whose development has been painfully slow.
Pag-asa Island is only one of two islands in the Spratly Islands with a functional airstrip. The Armed Forces of the Philippines constructed the Pag-asa airfield in the early 70′s and named if after the visionary PAF Commanding General that ordered its construction: Jose Rancudo. To date, however, there are no scheduled commercial flights to the municipal seat of power, save for periodic flights by AFP aircraft (the runway can accommodate the C-130 Hercules cargo planes and host of smaller aircraft). Charter flights have reached the island in the recent past. But with costs of reportedly P100K per charter, this would be too cost-prohibitive for local residents.
The primary means by which settlers travel to and from the closest Philippine landmass — Palawan — is by sea. Up until recently, passage to the island primarily by way of the Philippine Navy ships. Civilians would be taken aboard as passengers as navy warships re-supplied the various garrison in the different Philippine-held islands. Recently Municipality’s expanded the community’s transportation options by acquiring its own vessel: the 40-meter M/V Queen Seagull.
Ship-to-shore transfers however are difficult because Pag-asa does not have port facilities. During the monsoon season, the vessels have to drop anchor approximately 5 kilometers to the east to a submerged reef that provides more shelter than the waters around Pag-asa itself. The absence of a port also means that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) are unable to station patrol craft in the area to enforce environmental protection and similar laws. As has been reported on numerous occasions in the Philippine press, poachers are able to wreck havoc on the coral reefs within sight of Pag-asa and municipal authorities were powerless to take appropriate action. The Philippine Navy is similarly unable to pre-position vessels for sovereignty patrols. The nearest naval station with a functional pier is in Ulungan Bay in Palawan which is over 500 kilometers to the east of the island.
For this reason, the Municipality of Kalayaan proposed the the Kalayaan Sheltered Port project. The Municipal government of Kalayaan used the following graphic in one of their presentations to the national government. It shows the location of the proposed port as well as the rehabilitated runway.
The following table chronicles the twists and turns that this project has taken. Efforts to create a port have been initiated in the past. However this article will focus on the most recent project. Updates will be posted as new information becomes available . . . both current and historical.
June 22, 2011
Upon advice of the Philippine Ports Authority, the Office of the Municipal Mayor brought its appeal for funds to build port facilities on Pag-asa to the Office of the President. The letter suggested tapping into Malampaya proceeds for the project.
July 5, 2011
Office of the President referred the matter of the port facilities to Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for appropriate action. Note the inclusion of a patrol craft in the request, which was not mentioned in the initial correspondence in June.The rationale for why the request was routed to the DA instead of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), which has oversight over the Philippine Ports Authority, is unclear.
July 19, 2011
Department of Agriculture acknowledged receipt of correspondence from Office of the President and indicates that the matter has been referred to Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
August 4, 2011
Office of the Municipal Mayor sends a letter to the Department of Transportation and Communications appealing for assistance to build port facilities on Pag-asa Island. This line-of-communication is separate from the one that eventually went to the Department of Agriculture.
August 10, 2011
The BFAR asks the Municipality of Kalayaan to for a formal project proposal that includes designs and drawings of the proposed port as well as technical specifications for the requested patrol craft.
August 19, 2011
DOTC informs Kalayaan Municipal government that the Kalayaan Shelter Port has been included in the DOTC infrastructure program for Calendar Year 2012. The letter, however, notes that continued action on the request hinged on Congressional deliberation and availability of funds.The Kalayaan port is included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2012. See here. An excerpt of the relevant section of the document appears to the right of the aforementioned letter.
December 15, 2011
Office of the President signs Republic Act 10155, General Appropriations Act of 2012, into law. This budget allocated the sum of P5M to the development of two ports on Palawan, to include the port in Pag-asa, in accordance with the DOTC proposal for the NEP. See page 3 of this Department of Budget and Management (DBM) document. Relevant excerpt appears on the right.As per DBM guidance, funds allocated in this budget are only available until December 31, 2013. See here.
February 2, 2012
Municipal government sends message to BFAR, amending original request to exclude patrol craft and focus instead on port facilities.Photographs and graphic representations of the proposed facilities, as well as a photo what the Vietnamese had done on Pugad Island, were included
March 28, 2012
Kalayaan Municipal government responds, via email, to an urgent request from the DOTC for information about the scope of work, and specifications of the port.The response mentions a conference between the Philippine Ports Authority and the Flag-Officer-In-Command (FOIC) of the Philippine Navy on March 21, 2012 where both parties agreed to pool their resources to construct the port. Both agencies put forth their respective proposals. The Municipal government expressed preference for the Philippine Navy proposal.The Municipal office, admitting to a lack of expertise, referred the DOTC to the aforementioned agencies for the technical details.
March 30, 2012
DOTC requests that the Kalayaan Municipal government present a thorough feasibility study of the project, that included justification for the project (e.g., technical, social, financial, and economic aspects), as well as details designs of the proposed port.The email indicates that this information is part of budget planning for 2013. However, the Pag-asa port project is not included in the DOTC section of the National Expenditure Program for 2013 (see here). Funds allocated in the 2012 budget, however, remain valid till the end of 2013.
August 30, 2012
DOTC requested the Municipality of Kalayaan for information about previous studies conducted by the PPA/DA or the AFP about the feasibility of constructing a port. This data will reportedly be use for the drafting of a Term of Reference (TOR) for hiring of consultants for the drafting of a Master Plan for the project.
Pre-bid conferences for these ships were set on the 3rd and 6th of May respectively. Submission and opening of bid envelopes for both ships were set for the 20th of May.
Prospective bidders were instructed to contact the following PN office:
Office of the PN Bids and Awards Committee Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Contact person: LT DOMINGO B SUMAYO JR PN Cel Nr: 0917-587-4882 Tel Nr: 889-1301,815-3420 & 843-4416 local 6341 Email Add: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Andrada class patrol boats are the Philippine Navy’s largest class of patrol boat, numbering twenty-two (22) units, and were built in the early 90s at the Halter Equitable shipyard in New Orleans, Louisana. The class consists of 77-foot and 78-foot versions. The PG-370 and PG-375 are of the 77-foot variety.
Both ships have their respective discussion threads on the Timawa.net forum at the following locations:
The AFP’s priority is to acquire whatever capabilities it can in the soonest possible time. Given a choice between using imported technology that is available now, or waiting for indigenous solutions to mature . . . naturally they will go with what is already available.
HOWEVER, purchasing items from foreign suppliers does not automatically mean that it is a disadvantage for local industry. The key mitigating factor is in the mode of payment. This is where COUNTERTRADE comes into play. With countertrade, vendors are paid in kind, not money. Government money is used to buy local products which are then used to pay the vendor.
The lead agency for countertrade transactions is the Philippine Investment & Trading Corp. (PITC). Based on PITC statistics, the AFP is the largest user of countertrade transactions. The following modernization items were paid for using countertrade:
-> SIAI-Marchetti S211 trainer jets (Italy): 40% of the amount was paid for with the following items: Crude Coconut Oil, Garments/Fabric, various Copra products, various Porcelain, Black Tiger Prawns, Activated Coco Carbon, various Handicraft
-> Squad Automatic Weapons (Belgium): 85% of the acquisition was paid for with semi-processed rubber
-> Harris communication equipment (USA): 100% paid for with semi-processed rubber products, dessicated coconut, various handicraft
-> 105mm howizter upgrade (France): 100% paid for with copra products, desiccated Coconut, canned Tuna, assorted handicrafts
This is an update of last year’s article on defense spending (see here). The 2013 graph shows a disturbing P26.5M drop that may give the impression that the Philippines was reducing its defense commitments. This, however was there result of a shifting of responsibility for certain funds from the Department of National Defense to other departments.
A review of service-level budgets actually show a continuation of the upward trend of the past five years.
The allocation for the AFP Modernization fund remains at P5 billion.
Barring any significant reversals (which still remain possible as of writing), the South Korean KAI Golden Eagle appears poised to become the most sophisticated combat aircraft ever to enter service with the Philippine Air Force. It is a 21st century aircraft that will mark the start of the age of Fly-By-Wire for the PAF. The Aermacchi AS-211, the long serving but ill-suited, basic-jet-trainer-turned-makeshift-multirole-fighter will no longer be the PAF’s solitary connection to the combat-jet age.
But aside from the technological advancements that will prepare the PAF for true Multi-Role Fighters (MRF) capability, what does the Geagle really bring to the table? Where does it put us in terms of capability? The answers require data that are not readily available in the public space. However we can glean some insight by comparing this aircraft with what previously was the most advanced fighter in PAF service: the Vought F-8 Crusader. This Vietnam War veteran gave the PAF true all-weather interception capability and featured the most capable avionics suite in a PAF fighter up to that point. It is therefore a fitting yardstick for capability enhancement.
The following table puts together a simplistic comparison of both aircraft. More data will be added to this table over time. There are many other factors that affect aircraft performance beyond what is apparent in the specifications listed here. However, the Geagle’s limited range and a prevailing lack of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagement capability are both readily apparent.
While the Geagle is heads and shoulders above the S211 in a combat role . . . a need for a more capable aircraft in the near future remains necessary to meet the threats of today. To quote a Timawan in the AFP: “We are doomed if accept a Lead-In Fighter Trainer as our frontliner”.
FA-50 Golden Eagle
Photo c/o Vought
Photo c/o Korean Aerospace
375 sq. ft.
255 sq. ft.
Max take off weight
Pratt & Whitney J-57-P-4A
General Electric F404-102
Magnavox AN/APQ-83 fire control radar
For the FA version. Actual specs for PAF may vary:IAI EL/M-2032 Fire Control Radar
Tactical Data-Link System
Fly-by-wire digital flight controls
Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS)
Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS)
Multifunction Displays (MFD)
Four Colt Mk.12 20mm guns
One 20mm M61 3-barrel cannon
Beyond Visual Range(BVR) capability
Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft (Updated October 2012)
Responding to continued Chinese refusal to end their occupation of Bajo de Masinloc / Panatag Shoal, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has announced that it would bring China before an Arbitration Tribunal in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The following is an excerpt of the DFA press release:
The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive. We hope that the Arbitral Proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution.
< Edited >
Allow me, however, to highlight some salient points in the Notification and Statement of Claim:
The Philippines asserts that China’s so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful.
Within the maritime area encompassed by the 9-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed. In addition, China has occupied certain small, uninhabitable coral projections that are barely above water at high tide, and which are “rocks” under Article 121 (3) of UNCLOS.
China has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.
The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of August 25, 2006 under Article 298 of UNCLOS (regarding optional exceptions to the compulsory proceedings), and has avoided raising subjects or making claims that China has, by virtue of that Declaration, excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.
In this context, the Philippines is requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to issue an Award that, among others:
- Declares that China’s rights in regard to maritime areas in the South China Sea, like the rights of the Philippines, are those that are established by UNCLOS, and consist of its rights to a Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone under Part II of UNCLOS, to an EEZ under Part V, and to a Continental Shelf under Part VI;
- Declares that China’s maritime claims in the SCS based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid;
- Requires China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS; and
- Requires that China desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines asserts that the Arbitral Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and make an award based on its Notification and Statement of Claim because the dispute is about the interpretation and application by States Parties of their obligations under the UNCLOS. Article 287 (1) of UNCLOS provides that “settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of this Convention” may be referred by the Parties for resolution under Part XV of UNCLOS.
Article 287 of UNCLOS: Choice of procedure appears below.
1. When signing, ratifying or acceding to this Convention or at any time thereafter, a State shall be free to choose, by means of a written declaration, one or more of the following means for the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention:
(a) the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea established in accordance with Annex VI;
(b) the International Court of Justice;
(c) an arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VII;
(d) a special arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VIII for one or more of the categories of disputes specified therein.
2. A declaration made under paragraph 1 shall not affect or be affected by the obligation of a State Party to accept the jurisdiction of the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to the extent and in the manner provided for in Part XI, section 5.
3. A State Party, which is a party to a dispute not covered by a declaration in force, shall be deemed to have accepted arbitration in accordance with Annex VII.
4. If the parties to a dispute have accepted the same procedure for the settlement of the dispute, it may be submitted only to that procedure, unless the parties otherwise agree.
5. If the parties to a dispute have not accepted the same procedure for the settlement of the dispute, it may be submitted only to arbitration in accordance with Annex VII, unless the parties otherwise agree.
6. A declaration made under paragraph 1 shall remain in force until three months after notice of revocation has been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
7. A new declaration, a notice of revocation or the expiry of a declaration does not in any way affect proceedings pending before a court or tribunal having jurisdiction under this article, unless the parties otherwise agree.
8. Declarations and notices referred to in this article shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit copies thereof to the States Parties.
If 2011 was the modernization year of the Philippine Navy, the year 2012 was a more balanced period with significant acquisitions for all services. The following table shows some of the projects completed for each service. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of all acquisitions that occurred in the past year, and omits projects for which details are still missing as of writing. It also does not include the significant number of modernization projects that are still in various stages of completion.
Combat Utility Helicopter Project
The first batch of three W-3 Sokol helicopters, out of a total of 8 aircraft, were delivered on March 9, 2012.Timawa discussion here
The second batch of W-3 Sokols were delivered on November 28, 2012.Timawa.net discussion here
C-130 refurbishment program
C-130H #4704 returned from a Programmed Depot Maintenance cycle in the United States on October 2012Timawa.net discussion here
C-130B #3633 underwent its Programmed Depot Maintenance at the 410th Maintenance Wing in Clark AFB. It re-entered service on December 28, 2012.Timawa.net discussion here
BRP Ramon A Alcaraz (PF-16)
The former WHEC-716, USCGC Dallas, was turned over to the Philippine Navy on May 22, 2012 and re-christened the BRP Ramon A Alcaraz (PF-16)Timawa.net discussion here
Multi-Purpose Assault Craft Mk.2
The Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (MPAC) Mk.2, which were entirely manufactured in the Philippines, were commissioned in August 2012. Three units were accepted.Timawa.net discussion here
The latest variant of the Kia KM45x series of trucks were revealed to the public on AFP Day 2012. 60 units were acquired.Timawa.net discussion here
M-16A1 rehabilitation program
The Government Arsenal’s newly formed Small Arms Repair and Upgrade Division turned over the first 200 refurbished rifles to the AFP. Eventually 8,000 rifles will be repaired.Timawa.net discussion here
The following DND photograph captures a significant milestone in recent PAF history: the return of the rule-of-three to its airlift operations. Aircraft #4704, which recently arrived from a PDM cycle in the United States, and #4726, the PAF workhorse in recent years.
Touted as a milestone in self-reliance, the Philippine Air Force completed Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) for C-130B #3633 through the efforts of its own personnel at the 410th Maintenance Wing. Lockheed-Martin endorsed consultants were reportedly on hand to ensure compliance with industry standards.It was the first time the PAF had ever undertaken a project of this magnitude. Previous PDM efforts had either been done in Malaysia, or in-country through Asian Aerospace — a Lockheed-Martin approved contractor. As of writing, it is unclear if Asian Aerospace provided assistance for the project.
At the turnover ceremony for the refurbished Hercules, PAF Vice Commander MGEN Raul Dimatactac reported that the project gave PAF personnel invaluable experience in the conduct of PDM cycles for C-130 aircraft, and hinted this this experience would pave the way for more in-country PDM projects in the future. MGEN Dimatactac revealed that the project started in 2010, and would have been completed in 2011. But procedural difficulties in the acquisition of required components delayed the project. He also counted the experience gained in working with the procurement process as an achievement of the project, and would hasten similar efforts.
The PAF came close to returning to the critical 3-plane mark in 2009 when C-130 #4726 completed its Programmed Depot Maintenance cycle. Unfortunately, C-130 # 4598 crashed a few months prior. When the long-serving #4704 – which had been the lone C-130 for several years — was finally set aside for repair, the PAF returned to a one-plane fleet.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines revealed the entry of sixty (60) South Korean-made Kia KM-451 trucks into AFP service during its 77th founding anniversary celebration. The KM-451 is the ambulance version of the now ubiquitous KM-450 1/4 ton truck that entered service in 2007. The following images were taken from the PTV 4 coverage of the event.
Screen captures above from the video below
Screen capture above from the video below
As a member of the KM-45x family of vehicles, the KM-451 builds upon the maintenance experience and spare-parts base of the KM-450 fleet. The first 100 KM-450s entered AFP service in December 12, 2007, and various batches have been delivered since as part of a project to acquire 651 1 1/4 ton trucks. A Timawa.net forum discussion about these ambulances is available here.
Other ambulances in AFP service include 23 units of the ambulance variant of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or “Humvee” which were delivered in November 2011, ambulance variants of the V-150 and Simba APCs, and various civilian ambulances. These vehicles are part of efforts to improve the AFP Forward Medical Support System.
The following screen capture of the Kia Motors Website for the KM-45x family of vehicles provides additional information about the KM-451 and other members of its vehicle family.