Philippines eyes opening Pag-asa Island to tourists

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Philippines eyes opening Pag-asa Island to tourists
The Philippines has been repairing a dilapidated runway on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea since last year.
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MANILA, Philippines — Aside from rehabilitating its dilapidated runway on Pag-asa or Thitu Island in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine government might also open the island to tourists.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government is on track in rebuilding the runway Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratly Islands.

"Plus in the future we'll be building structures for our troops there and maybe some hotels for Filipinos who would like to go there as tourists," Lorenzana said in a press conference Tuesday.

According to Lorenzana, the completion of the beaching ramp on the island is at 70% this month and is expected to be finished within the year.

The government is building a beaching ramp first to bring in materials needed to repair the runway.

Lorenzana admitted that there have been problems in the government's efforts to rehabilitate its facilities on the island.

"The problem with constructing or building something on Pag-asa (Island) is it has no materials so we will bring them from Puerto Princesa and it depends also on the weather. If the waves are high then they will stop transporting these materials. They will wait for calmer weather before we can go there," Lorenzana said.

The Philippine government will also be constructing facilities for troops on the islands after the completion of the runway repairs.

In response to Manila's repairs on Pag-asa Island, China deployed ships believed to be part of its maritime militia in the West Philippine Sea.

A report from think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative found that the Chinese navy, coast guard and fishing vessels have been operating near Subi Reef as early as July 2018, around the same time Pag-asa Island repairs started.

Subi Reef, one of Beijing's military outposts, is 12 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island.

The military earlier confirmed that Chinese ships loitering near Pag-asa Island could be monitoring the country's activities on the island.

"We have an ongoing project at Pag-asa Island — and this has been repeatedly observed — we think it's part of their surveillance," Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a radio interview in April.

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