Defense chief unfazed by China’s moves near Pag-asa
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday remained unfazed about reports that China has deployed maritime militia around the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa or Thitu Island in the West Philippine Sea.
“The presence of militia… is no surprise to us as they have been there since 2012. We expect other countries to respect Philippine sovereignty, and to conduct themselves in a civilized manner befitting members of the global community,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
Last week, US-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) released a statement claiming that China, in response to Philippine constructions on Pag-asa Island since May 2018, appeared to try to put “pressure” by deploying a large fleet of ships including fishing, Navy and Coast Guard vessels between Pag-asa and the Chinese-held Subi Reef 12 nautical miles away since July 2018.
“Their numbers increased to at least 24 on Dec. 3, just before the current construction operations began. In five subsequent satellite images captured from mid-December to late January, their numbers fluctuate, reaching a high of 95 on Dec. 20 before dropping to 42 by January,” Amti said.
In December, Lorenzana revealed that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua earlier tried to discourage the Philippines’ repairs on the Pag-asa runway, and even Lorenzana’s visit to Pag-asa.
Basic but essential
“We pointed out to them that it’s just proper for us to improve the runway and every facility in the Pag-asa because they have already developed Subi Reef,” Lorenzana had said.
Lorenzana enumerated that constructions and upgrades on Pag-asa island included a beaching ramp to be completed in the first quarter this year, an air strip on the Rancudo Airfield, barracks for soldiers, desalination facilities, a sewage disposal system, conventional and renewable power generators, lighthouses, shelters and storage facilities for fishermen.
“These planned modest improvements are basic but nonetheless highly essential in delivering social services,” he said in his statement.
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