MANILA, May 31 (Mabuhay) – Pristine Ulugan and Oyster Bays in Palawan province do not only have great value not only as a haven for nature lovers, but great strategic potential for the military.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is considering allowing the United States military to use the venues for training, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“(K)asi nakita natin ang potential niya at kailangan magkaroon ng paraan para ito ma-develop into a naval facility,” AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.
EDCA, signed earlier this year by the Philippines and the US, expands cooperation between the two countries and allows the US military to build military facilities in “agreed locations.”
It is seen to help the Philippines deter incursions by countries like China to disputed parts of the South China Sea, which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea
Ulugan Bay is a harbor for sea vessels especially in bad weather.
The military’s Naval Forces West had moved its headquarters there while the Navy has a detachment in the area, he added.
On the other hand, Oyster Bay is a potentially strategic area considered for US troops’ use, as one can get to the West Philippine Sea from there via Ulugan Bay.
Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez noted such a potential setup could be a deterrent to outsiders.
“Aba e presence lang nila rito, marami nang matatakot di papasok. Tama na yan, that alone is a deterrent by itself,” he said.
As for concerns that the development could disrupt the natural beauty there, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron said there should be a balance between development and nature.
“(P)wede naman magkaroon ng balanse,” he said.
For their part, local fishermen said any development of the area should not affect their livelihood.
“Okay lang naman yan ‘di makasagabal sa hanapbuhay ng mga mangingisda sa malapit,” said one. (MNS)