The Philippines is planning to invite tourists to Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island), the largest and most strategic outpost in the West Philippine Sea, as a way to claim its authority over some of the world’s disputed islands.

Besides wanting to reconstruct its unpaved runway, the Philippine government might also build structures for the armed forces there, as well as the Filipino tourists who would like to visit the island, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“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,” he said.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visited Pag-asa Island last April 2017. (Image source: interaksyon.com/Erik De Castro )

Meanwhile, the government is establishing a beaching ramp in order to transmit materials needed for the reconstruction of the runway. 

Lorenzana gave updates on the progress of the beaching ramp and said that it is at 70% this month. Therefore, it is expected to be completed within the year.

In addition, he admitted that the government has been experiencing problems in its efforts to rebuild 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.

Chinese militia vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island

On the other hand, China reportedly has sent militia vessels near the island. This is believed to be their response to the Philippines’ reconstruction on Pag-asa island.

Furthermore, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reported that the Chinese troops and fishing crafts have been working near the Subi Reef. This was around the same time the Philippines started repairing at the Pag-asa Island on July 2018.

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

Earlier, the military confirmed that the ships strolling near could be Chinese forces monitoring the 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,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

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