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China protests 'visit' to Pagasa

BEIJING—China has lodged representations with the Philippine side following a visit by the Filipino defense and military officials in Pagasa Island, according to the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

”Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side,” Lu Kang said in a press statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry Affairs website.

Last Friday, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año, along with other military officials, visited Pagasa Island, a Philippine-occupied territory that is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

Lu said the move of the Philippine defense and military officials had negated the important consensus reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

SURVEYING THE SEASHORE. Philippine Coast Guard personnel survey the seashores near Thitu Island with Chinese-claimed Subi reef (background) during a visit by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other top defense and military officials in the disputed Spratlys archipelago on Friday. Filipino fishermen have accused Chinese coast guard of shooting at their vessel in the area. AFP
”This move runs counter to the important consensus reached between the two leadership, which is to properly deal with the South China Sea issue,” Lu said.

Lu said China was hoping the Philippine government would continue to cherish a 42-year-old China-Philippines bilateral relations which rejuvenated under the leadership of President Duterte.

The Philippines and China forged diplomatic ties in 1975 during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos, who opened formal links a year later with at the time the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

”We hope that the Philippine side could faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leadership, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations,” Lu said.

Since President Duterte’s China visit last year, Lu said China and the Philippines had been keeping good communication to properly manage and resolve the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

”We hope that this momentum can continue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

In media reports, Lorenzana described the trip to Pagasa Island as a “normal visit within our territory.”

 ”We believe and we know that this is our territory and I am just visiting to look at the conditions of our people here,” the top Filipino defense official said.

Pagasa Island was occupied by the Philippines in the late 1960s and is categorized as a fifth-class municipality of Palawan province.

Lorenzana has revealed a plan to set aside at least P1.6 billion to develop Pagasa Island and a proposal by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to build a fish port in the area. 

Meanwhile, specialized construction and engineering troops from the Philippine Navy and Air Force will play a key role in upgrading various facilities in Pagasa Island, Lorenzana said Friday.

This is especially true when it comes to building facilities involving ship docking and unloading of cargoes.

“We must first construct the so-called beaching ramp because if that facility is not yet ready, then we cannot bring in LSTs [landing ship tanks] to bring in building materiel due to lack of docking facilities. So the beaching ramp is the first priority. The Navy already has a plan to build that and use their Seabees [Naval Construction Brigade] in constructing and completing that project before July,” Lorenzana added in Filipino.

Engineering battalions from the Air Force could be deployed if needed.

He disclosed that once the beaching ramp was completed, construction activities could continue even in the most adverse weather as building supplies and engineering equipment could be stockpiled safely and easily.

Construction projects eyed for Pagasa Island include concreting the 1.2-km. Rancudo Airstrip, development of ports, installation of additional solar panels and generator sets, desalination plants, new quarters for military personnel, the establishment of a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources marine research and shelter center, and an ice plant for storing fish caught by the islanders. 

Topics: China , Chinese , Pagasa Island , South China Sea , West Philippine Sea , Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana , Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año , Spratly Islands , Lu Kang
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