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Pag-asa repairs to push through despite Chinese protest

The Philippine-claimed Pag-asa Island on the Spratlys chain of islands is shown off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials flew to the island to assert the country's claim to the heartland of the disputed area where China is believed to have added missiles on man-made islands. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Repairs on Pag-asa Island facilities will push through despite protest from the Chinese side, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua earlier claimed that the plan of the Philippines to improve its facilities in the island was illegal.

"It stays as decided upon in the National Security Council and the Cabinet... We have the Kalayaan Island Group or the Municipality of Kalayaan," Esperon said in a televised press conference at Malacañang.

The Philippine government has allotted P1.6 billion to develop the island situated in the Spratly Group in the disputed South China Sea.

The government is planning to repair the airstrip in the island to allow more flights and improve the safety of the island. He said eroded parts of the airstrip will be repaired so Air Force C-130s can land on the 1.3-km strip. 

Esperon noted that Pag-asa Island is surrounded by Mabini and Fiery Cross Reefs, where China has built their own airstrips.

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DFA: Pag-asa, Kalayaan are part of Palawan

The Department of Foreign Affairs had stressed the country's claim over Pag-asa Island in response to Zhao's pronouncement.

DFA spokesperson reiterated that the Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are part of Palawan province.

"Any visit or activity we undertake there are part and parcel of our Constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality," Bolivar said in a statement released earlier this week.

READ: Philippines counters China, lays claim over Pag-asa

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