Residents cheer as PAF helicopter makes historic landing at Pearl Bank 

BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi  (MindaNews / 17 December) – Residents of  Pearl Bank, locally known as Baabag Sahasa, cheered and posed for souvenir photos as the Philippine Air Force made its first helicopter landing at the newly-established helicopter landing zone located beside the Baabag-Sahasa  Island sovereignty marker in Languyan town last Wednesday. 

Pearl Bank is about 80 kilometers from Tawi-Tawi’s capital town of Bongao and 76.59 kilometers from the closest point to North Borneo. 

The helicopter ferried Brig. Gen. Romeo Racadio, commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi (JTFTT), the PAF’s Col. Arcanghel Gamido, Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Real Estate Office; Architect Ma. Belinda Octa, Acting Chief of Real Estates Management Division of the Department of National Defense’s Office for Real Estate and Installation; ·and representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority Philippines and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the province. 

Courtesy of JTFTT

The Island was formerly used by the Abu Sayyaf and kidnappers as their transit area, and was also used by smugglers and other lawless groups until it was secured in 2017 by the Marines of the JTFTT. The island is inhabited by Sama-Bajaus.

Residents in the area flocked to the landing zone for souvenir photos with the helicopter and the visitors. 

The event is one of the task force’s milestone initiatives to establish and strengthen maritime security posture, establish active presence, and maintain overall preparedness for humanitarian and disaster response capability, particularly in far-flung areas and isolated marine detachments. (Gamar A. Aukasa / MindaNews)