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Lorenzana sees repair of Pag-asa runway in Spratlys finished by end of 2019

/ 07:40 PM August 14, 2018

LONG-NEEDED UPGRADE A May 17 satellite photo (left) from the Washington-based think tank, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, shows two barges off the western tip of the airstrip on Pag-asa Island dredging the seabed to repair the dilapidated runway. The May 16 photo at right shows a closer view of one of the barges at work on the 1.3-kilometer crumbling coral airstrip that has become dangerous to aircraft.

The eroded airstrip on Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island (Thitu) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will be completed before the end of next year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

Asked about the status of the rehabilitation of the island, the defense chief said the construction of the beaching ramp continues and may be finished by yearend. This will allow ships to transport construction materials for the runway later on.

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“They are trying to build the beaching ramp. We need the beaching ramp because, without that, we cannot bring any equipment, we cannot bring in the bulldozers, plus the materials to rebuild the runway,” he told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the formal acceptance ceremony of a surveillance system from the US.

The Philippines has started its upgrades on Pag-asa Island, the biggest island occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed seas.

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READ: PH starts runway repair in Spratlys

Lorenzana said the entire year next year will be devoted to the repair of the dilapidated runway.

“By the end of 2019, we will bring the C-130s there,” he said.

Repairs of the eroded airstrip have been stalled for a long time over fears it would upset China. The previous administration had allotted P1.6 billion for the upgrades.

The eroded 1.3-kilometer coral airstrip built in the 1970s has become risky for landing big planes, including several whose tires blew out due to intense braking to prevent them from overshooting the short runway.

The airstrip also becomes too muddy whenever it rains and pilots have to wait at least three days before they can land.

Last May, Inquirer published close up photos showing that the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbors in fortifying its outposts in the West Philippine Sea. /ee

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TAGS: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Pagasa Island, Pagasa runway, Spratlys, West Philippine Sea
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