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Safety issues hamper House hearing on South China Sea

/ 03:30 PM March 17, 2017

Updated: 6:05 p.m., March 17, 2017

Safety issues due to bad weather prompted the postponement of a congressional hearing on the Philippine-claimed Pagasa Island (Thitu) in the South China Sea.

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The hearing was scheduled for Thursday. But heavy rains in the past few days had soaked the unpaved 1.3-kilometer airstrip of Rancudo Airfield, which could be dangerous for aircraft landing, Director Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson of the Department of National Defense, said on Friday.

“It will take at least five days of dry weather to make the runway safe for landing planes,” he said.

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The House of Representatives committee on government enterprises and privatization instead held a public hearing at the Palawan Provincial Capitol in Puerto Princesa City.

The committee was supposed to discuss the bill filed by Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque proposing the creation of the Spratlys Development Authority.

The Western Command, which is based in Puerto Princesa, expressed regret that they had to deny the lawmakers from going to the island due to “safety issues.”

“The AFP’s Wescom is concerned with his safety when his aircraft lands in the island since it rained the day prior,” Capt. Cheryl Tindog, WesCom spokesperson, said.

A scheduled activity of the WesCom on Pagasa Island for its anniversary on Friday also did not push through because of aircraft landing concerns.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana and top military officials were also scheduled to make a trip to the island on Friday, but it was postponed for the same reason.

Pagasa is the largest area claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys, where about a hundred people reside. /RAM/rga/atm

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TAGS: Congress, hearing, Pagasa Island, South China Sea, weather
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