Lorenzana denies report Philippines doing reclamation work in Pag-asa island
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denies a report by the think-tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMIT) that the Philippines is conducting reclamation in Pag-asa or Thitu Island
“As of now, only the beaching ramp is being undertaken. Next is the concreting of the runway,” he said.
“Reclamation means there is land before and you are reclaiming the land back. Since there is no land but water, we call it filling up the space with stones, gravel and soil,” he added.
In its report, AMTI noted that satellite imagery from January 11 and 26, 2019 shows reclamation work in the Island “is more ambitious than a simple beaching ramp.”
Both images are partially obscured by clouds, but they reveal excavators depositing sand over an area of approximately eight acres, or more than 32,000 square meters, to the north of the existing causeway,” the report said.
However, Lorenzana said the third phase of the rehabilitation of the island will include reclamation to lengthen the runway.
“Third phase is the lengthening of the runway which will entail the reclamation of about 300 meters,” he said.
The AMTI report noted that the construction activities of the Philippines on its Island provoke China to respond by deploying ships from Subi Reef.
“China has responded to this new construction by deploying a large fleet of ships from Subi reef, just over 12 nautical miles southwest of Thitu,” the report said.
“These include several People’s Liberation Army-Navy and China Coast Guard ships, along with dozens of fishing vessels ranging in size from 30 to 70 meters,” it noted.
“A handful of Chinese vessels have operated in the area between Subi and Thitu since at least July 2018, likely in response to the initial Philippine effort to start runway repairs last May. But their numbers increased to at least 24 on December 3, just before the current construction operations began,” it added. Robina Asido/DMS