Naval base eyed in Maasim, Sarangani

Mayor Aniceto Lopez, Jr. said the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Eastern Command (EastMinCom) considers the town an ideal site for a naval station.

“This will be a big boost to our locality’s security…and considering that millions will be spent for the construction if this project pushes through,”  Lopez said.

The proposed naval base will be developed over a six-year program, with funding support from the  Department of Defense, he said.

The site being eyed for the proposed naval station is presently covered by Forest Land/Grazing Land Agreement 578 issued to Dolores Flores. Flores’ lease agreement over an area of 234 hectares, however, will soon expire, the mayor said, adding they hope the national government would render portions of the area in favor of the naval base.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Alcantara Dominguez said discussions with the Philippine Navy for the proposed base have been going on since 2004.

“Essentially, what we would like to achieve is to put up a permanent maritime security in the area that will also address piracy in the high seas. Nothing is final yet, however,” Dominguez said. 

The governor, who expressed confidence the project would push through in the medium term, assured that the naval base will not be used for the interest of US forces.

Maasim town was attacked by alleged renegade members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on board motor boats, killing two civilians. The attackers also allegedly looted local shops.

“I’m working now for a donation of around 60 hectares from pasture lands in Maasim. If we don’t do this (naval base), in the future we might be blamed for not addressing security concerns now,” said Dominguez, who was designated as a Philippine Navy reserve officer last year.

Dominguez estimated that establishing a permanent naval station in Maasim would cost the Defense department a low of P500 million to a high of P3 billion. 

The proposed site of the naval base, which Mayor Lopez said would not be open for “public commercial use,” is adjacent to the proposed coal-fired power plant of the Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp.

Conal had announced plans to construct 200-megawatt coal power plant at a cost of $450 million in Barangay Kamanga, a village near Barangay Tinoto where a world-class diving spot sits. The company targets to increase to 900 megawatts the plant's capacity into two 350-megawatt increments.

Environmentalists and the local Catholic church are opposing the coal-fired plant, fearing it will destroy the corals that attract marine creatures and may spoil the diving spot.

Dominguez and Lopez claimed the proposed naval base as well as the coal-fired power plant “won’t endanger” Maasim’s world-class diving spot. (MindaNews)