PAG-ASA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Eduardo Año said on Friday, April 21, there's nothing like singing the national anthem on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
The lyrics of Lupang Hinirang mirror patriotism to the flag and willingness to offer one's life to defend national territory. Pag-asa is inside the 9-dash-line drawn by China to claim almost all of the South China Sea.
"I'm so proud. Alam mo kanina noong kumakanta ng (You know when we were singing the) national anthem here in Pag-asa, I dont know if you feel that it's a different feeling. It's very different from the normal flag raising cereomony in the headquarters and doing it here in Pag-asa," Año told Rappler during the visit.
The national anthem ends with the lines: "Aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi, Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo" which has been unofficially translated to "It's our joy when there be oppressor, to die for cause of Thee" in English.
"From the start [of the national anthem] pa lang. It symbolizes we really own this territory," Año said.
Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
Año and other top officers of the military joined Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's trip to the disputed seas. (READ: PH security officials visit disputed island in West PH Sea)
Año and Lorenzana flew in separate planes. Both received radio challenges from China.
It's the first time for the Philippine military chief to step foot on Pag-asa, the second biggest naturally occurring island in the entire South China Sea.
Año, who belongs to the Army, has spent his career fighting rebels and insurgents.
Protecting the West Philippine Sea is mostly a tandem job between the navy and the air force. The Marines get the most challenging task of manning Philippine outposts in the disputed seas for months on rotation. Navy ships patrol the waters while the air force pilots watch developments from the sky.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warmed ties with China, recently ordered the military to boost deployment in the country's maritime claims, build structures, and raise the Philippine flag. (READ: Duterte to military: Occupy PH islands in South China Sea)
Lorenzana said a budget of at least P1.6 billion was allocated to fast-track construction of facilities here.
The Philippines occupied Pag-asa in the 1970s, deployed troops to occupy the island, and built a runway there.
But the island was neglected for decades as Philippine presidents adopted various strategies to deal with the growing aggressiveness of China. – Rappler.com