MANILA, Philippines—The government is looking to develop Pagasa Island in the disputed Spratlys Group of Islands once a beaching ramp has been completed that would allow construction materials to get onto the island.
Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a forum Tuesday that “there are many opportunities there if the runway on the island is fixed.”
“Airplanes can land there to carry fish that have been caught by fishermen and then brought to Manila faster than boat. We can build a refrigeration facility to store and preserve the fish. We can also turn it into a tourist area like what other countries are doing with their claimed area,” Gazmin said.
A beaching ramp is first needed so that ships can bring construction materials into the island and repair the 1,260-meter long runway that was built in 1975.
The runway is actually longer than the island and is built on extensions, some of which have eroded.
Gazmin said they are not looking to develop the small military base already there and it should not be taken as a form of aggression in the highly disputed Spratlys Islands.
“It will only be for commercial and tourist purposes for the economic growth [of the Philippines],” Gazmin said.
The Philippines’ neighbors all have their respective claims over the Spratlys Islands, especially China.
“[Pagasa Island] is ours, we don’t have to ask permission from anyone,” Gazmin said.