Defense chief to visit Pag-Asa

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2017 - 12:05am

MANILA, Philippines - With the improving relations between the Philippines and China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is planning to visit Pag-Asa Island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea.

While no specific date has been set for the trip, Camp Aguinaldo insiders revealed the visit is now being arranged.

Lorenzana himself confirmed his planned trip to the island town, saying Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Ano will accompany him.

“We are planning to go there with the chief of staff,” Lorenzana said, adding that some members of media can join the trip.

Formerly a military garrison, Pag-Asa Island is now home to around 300 civilian residents and is the seat of Kalayaan town, a fifth class municipality of Palawan province.

Lorenzana has yet to specify the purpose of his planned visit to Pag-Asa Island, which is central to the maritime dispute among six Spratlys-claimant states – the Phllippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and China.

China lays claim to the entire archipelago while the remaining five claimant-states have overlapping maritime claims in the disputed region.

Camp Aguinaldo insiders said Lorenzana, aside from visiting the soldiers in the island town, also wanted to get a feel of the real situation there following improved relations with China.              

Aside from Pag-Asa Island, the AFP through Palawan-based Western Command also maintains eight other military detachments on seven islets and two reefs in the region.                       

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