DOMINION MARKER. The 2nd Marine Brigade together with the municipal government of Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi visit Panguan Island on Dec. 24, 2021, ahead of the construction of a sovereign marker on the remote island in the province that borders Malaysia and Indonesia. Brig. Gen. Romeo Racadio, 2nd Marine Brigade commander (5th from left), led the groundbreaking of the project. (Photo courtesy of the 2nd Marine Brigade)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippine Marine troops, together with the municipal government of Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, are constructing a sovereignty marker in a remote island of the province, military officials said Wednesday.

The marker is being built on Panguan Island, which formerly serves as a haven for kidnappers, smugglers, and other lawless groups.

The island falls under the political jurisdiction of Barangay Datu Baguinda Puti, Sitangkai, the southernmost place in the Philippines, bordering the countries of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Racadio, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, who visited Panguan Island on Christmas eve, led the groundbreaking ceremony that signaled the start of the marker construction.

“As an exercise of sovereignty, the marker demonstrates the belongingness of the maritime feature and its inhabitants to one country,” Racadio said in a statement Wednesday.

“The local government (of Sitangkai) needs to place one, because, Panguan or locally called 'Panggungan' (resting safe area), is too remote from the provincial seat of government but close to another foreign place,” added Racadio, who is also the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander.

He noted that Panguan Island was formerly used by lawless groups to exploit the vulnerable and marginal Sama-Badjao tribe on the island until it was secured in 2017.

Currently, the island is home to an 80-household community of Sama-Badjaos, whose children are educated by the civilians and military personnel of the Marine detachment stationed on the island.

In October this year, a similar sovereignty marker was constructed in Bakkungan (Great) Island in the municipality of Turtle Islands.

Next year, the Tawi-Tawi provincial government will continue to support and partner with the military to place more markers on other islands located in the margin areas of the province to set the expectation that residents of these places are entitled to the same rights and protection as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

“With our strengthened collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, we continue to gain significant breakthroughs in our campaigns to ensure the safety and security of the people and the state,” Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said in a separate statement. (PNA)