Lorenzana: AFP troops present in 9 PH detachments in Spratlys
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said government troops have been long deployed in each of the nine detachments of the Philippine claims in the Spratlys in the South China Sea.
“We have nine islands in the Kalayaan Island Group or KIG (Spratlys) that are already in our possession since long ago, including Pag-asa,” he said in a statement to reporters.
On his visit to Palawan-based Western Command, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the construction of structures and planting of the Philippine flags in all areas claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys.
“We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control,” the President said.
Duterte also mentioned plans of visiting Pagasa Island on Independence Day on June 12.
“Mukhang agawan kasi ito ng isla eh (This looks like an island-grabbing thing). And what’s ours now, at least kunin na natin (take what is ours) and make a strong point natin there that it is ours,” he said.
Defense and military officials clarified the President’s remarks, saying that the Philippines would only improve its detachments in the Spratlys and not occupy new ones. Marines and sailors are deployed in a rotational basis in each of the areas claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea.
“The President wants facilities built such as barracks for the men, water and sewage disposal systems, power generators, light houses, and shelters for fishermen,” he said.
Pressed further on what the President meant by his orders, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that the President was fully aware of the situation in the Spratlys.
“I think what he meant was he wanted to improve the living conditions of the troops stationed there,” he said.
Padilla also thinks that the tensions in the South China Sea would not escalate with the President’s planned visit in a few months’ time.
“We have opened up bilateral consultations with the Chinese and they have always mentioned that everything will always be discussed peacefully,” he said.
The Philippines occupies nine islands, reefs, features in the Spratlys: Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal), Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island, and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.