Oyster Bay villagers all for building naval base

By David Santos
Solar News

Oyster-Bay.5Puerto Princesa City, Palawan – For years, this has been the typical morning in Ulugan Bay off Puerto Princesa: Fishermen, out in the seas for days, returning home with their boats filled with fresh catch.

That landscape is now slowly changing, with the presence of heavily armed military rubber boats and war ships roaming the bay.

Besides the newly-transferred Naval Base in Barangay Macarascas, Puerto Princesa City, another obscure navy facility is now being built in Oyster Bay.

One of the unique features of the Oyster Bay is its location. It is situated in the inner part of the bigger Ulugan Bay. It is secluded, making it an ideal harbor for the Navy’s ships and other assets.

The Navy is trying to project Oyster Bay as a top secret facility, prohibiting journalists from getting close to the area.

The government is initially spending around P500 million to develop the Oyster Bay detachment, which primarily will serve as a safe harbor for Navy ships that need to be deployed to the West Philippine Sea.

Among the structures built so far include a huge oil tank and boat house.

A special road is also being constructed to connect Oyster Bay to Palawan’s main highway.

The P43-million funding for the project was allotted in 2012, just about the time tensions between China and the Philippines started to heat up.

Local officials support the government’s move to reinforce military presence west of Palawan, more so, the possibility of allowing US troops to be stationed in the area.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron said the area needs a military facility because it’s isolated from the rest of the country.

“Hindi namin kayang proteksyunan yung lahat ng anong meron tayo [We can’t protect everything we have here],” Bayron said.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the mere presence of a military facility would prevent unwanted intrusions into the area.

“That alone is a deterrent by itself,” he said.

Oyster Bay is next to Barangay Bahile, a small village with a population of about 3,000 people.

Being one of the remotest communities in the island, basic services such as water supply remain inadequate.

Around 80 percent of residents here derive their income from fishing and other maritime resources.

Military operations in their area are not expected to affect their livelihood.

Barangay Bahile Chairman Carlos Quirante, a retired Navy officer, said the authorities had explained to residents about the military base being a restricted area. They fishermen, he said, were told where their boats could pass.

Barangay residents, he said, are aware of the tension over the West Philippine Seas. That’s why they support the construction of a naval base in the area.

Both officials and resident said they would keep an eye on military activities here, particularly its impact on the environment, since Palawan is known for its biodiversity and unique sanctuaries.

Other than this, they said, they have nothing much to worry since having the troops around would also do so much not only for their interests but also for national security.


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