China has made efforts to prevent the Philippines from repairing the runway and upgrading its facilities on Pag-asa Island (Thitu), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed on Friday.
“When he learned that we are going to repair our runway in Pag-asa, he came to me and said, ’No,’ Lorenzana said as he recalled one of his meetings with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.
Pag-asa Island is the biggest outpost occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands, which is inhabited by about a hundred civilians and a small batch of military troops. It also has a 1.3-kilometer dilapidated runway.
The government announced in April 2017 that it would finally start the long-delayed repair of the island, but it was stalled for several months. The rehabilitation was confirmed through satellite images of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in May this year.
“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 (Zamora Reef),” Lorenzana said at a forum in Makati.
The Chinese ambassador also tried to stop him from going to Pagasa Island.
“When he learned that I was going to Pag-asa he came to me and tried to dissuade me from going there. He gave a lot of reasons, some countries might follow me daw to go to the islands. No defense secretary has gone there before, I will be the first to go and we went there,” he said.
Lorenzana visited the island in April 2017.
China has transformed its seven reefs and islands into sprawling military outposts, some equipped with missiles, leaving the Philippines behind in developing its occupied areas in the hotly-contested waterway./ac
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