Lorenzana said improvements in Pag-Asa Island are ''legitimate''
Amid reports that the construction and rehabilitation of Pag-asa Island is provoking response from China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana emphasized that improvements being done by the Philippines is “legitimate”.
“Having undergone careful planning and consideration, with full respect to international law and rules-based order governing civilized states, implementing these improvements is a legitimate undertaking, and well within our rights as a sovereign nation,” he said.
Lorenzana issued his statement after think-tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported the alleged deployment of Chinese militia in response to construction by the Philippines to improve Pag-asa Island.
“The presence of militia on the Chinese man-made structures is no surprise to us as they have been there since 2012,” he said.
“We expect other countries to respect Philippine sovereignty, and to conduct themselves in a civilized manner befitting members of the global community,” he added.
Lorenzana said improvements being done in the island “are basic but nonetheless highly essential in delivering social services to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of Filipino citizens on the island.”
“Improving the safety, welfare, livelihood, and personal security of Filipinos in the Municipality of Kalayaan, a distinct and separate town under the province of Palawan, is the government’s Constitutional mandate,” he said.
Lorenzana said “among the facilities being constructed / upgraded in Pag-asa are the beaching ramp which will be completed by the first quarter of this year, air strip (Rancudo Airfield), better barracks for soldiers, desalination facilities, sewage disposal system, conventional and renewable power generators, lighthouses, shelters and storage facilities for fishermen.”
“The Department of National Defense has always been open and transparent in conveying and fulfilling the government’s desire to improve the living conditions of both the civilian and military citizens in the community of Barangay Pag-asa, the largest of the nine islands in the municipality comprising the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG),” he said.
“Kalayaan has been part of the sovereignty of the Philippines since 1978, by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1596 and international laws,” he added.
Aside from Pag-asa or Thitu Island, other features and Islands in the KIG include Kota Island, Parola Cay, Patag Reef, Likas Island, Lawak Island, Panata Cay, Rizal Reef, and Ayungin Shoal. Robina Asido/DMS