Bad weather stalls defense chief’s visit to Pag-Asa

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Heavy rains forced the suspension of the planned visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Rep. Harry Roque to Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys.

For several days, it has been raining heavily over the area, making it unsafe for planes to land on the unpaved airfield in Kalayaan town on the island.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through the Western Command (Wescom), regrets that it had to disallow the intended flight of Rep. Harry Roque to Pag-asa Island yesterday because of safety issues,” said Marine Capt. Cherryl Tindog, Wescom spokesperson, pointing out it would be unsafe for an aircraft to land on the unpaved airfield.

Lorenzana, along with top military officials and journalists, were supposed to visit the island town on Thursday but also had to forgo the trip for safety reasons.

Instead of Pag-asa Island, Lorenzana diverted his flight to Wescom in Palawan where he declared the Department of National Defense would be building a concrete runway in the island town in the next three months.

In a television interview, Lorenzana said President Duterte has also allocated funds to develop the other islands occupied by the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Aside from seven islets, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through Wescom, has deployed troops on two reefs in the country’s Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) territories.

Living conditions in these nine detachments occupied by soldiers in the KIG are in a sorry state.

The Philippine government opted to maintain and observe the status quo so as not to further stir the territorial conflict in the region.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said he could not yet issue any statement on the plan to build the concrete runway in Pag-Asa Island.

“I could not comment on matters that I don’t have any knowledge of for now,” Padilla said. 


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