Aerial photo of Mavulis Island, Batanes.  Inset shows the location of the fisherman’s shelter built by the government.  The military planted a Philippine flag on the island to assert the country’s sovereignty over it.  (Photo from NOLCOM)

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to patrol the Batanes Islands to make sure no one “steals” the islands from the Republic of the Philippines after “what happened in the West Philippine Sea”.

During a situation briefing about the recent quakes that hit the province of Batanes, Duterte instructed the PCG “to assure that those [Batanes] islands will remain ours”. 

The chief executive said that placing patrol boats in the areas should send a clear signal to the international community that those islands belong to the Philippines.

“So dito bantayan ninyo ‘yan. While you were talking about earthquakes, do not ever… Iyan I will not surrender even one can of milo there. One can of earth hindi ako papayag,” he said.

“Kaya sabi ko I need to patrol the area once in a while. For all I know nandun ako tapos nakatalikod tayong lahat, they are doing — they are already mining at the back,” he said.

“But just the same, I am really not in the mood of just giving our territory because of what happened in this West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Apparently, the president was not aware that the military already has a presence on Mavulis Island, the country’s northernmost island. A fisherman’s shelter has already been built by the military in the island.

Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in an interview with CNN Philippines that he will deploy a patrol boat the area “to deter all those poachers of our fish and anybody who will get inside our territory.”

He also suggested that a coast guard station be built in Basco and for vessels to patrol the areas regularly.

Lorenzana shared that he told the president about Mavulis right after the briefing. “Probably he didn’t know that before but there’s no question that those islands are ours ever since,” he said. (Rommel F. Lopez)