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Military Planning to Expand Spratlys Island Base in Move vs. China

Pag-asa island will be turned into a logistics base.
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In a move to counter China’s recent activities in the West Philippine Sea, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it is planning to make improvements and significantly expand the facilities in one of the islands the country currently occupies in the Spratlys. 

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the country will turn Pag-asa Island (also known as Thitu Island) into a logistics hub in order to beef up its presence and improve law enforcement operations in the disputed area.

“If we transform it into a logistics hub, our boats will [go] further and our sovereignty patrol in West Philippine Sea will continue,” the Maritime Executive quoted Sobjeano as saying in a press conference. “We are patrolling where our fishermen are going as well as where the Chinese ships are staying to make sure that our countrymen will not be threatened or intimidated.”

Pag-asa Island has been occupied by the Philippines since 1971. It is the second-largest of the Spratly Islands and has a Filipino civilian population of about 300. The island already has structures such as a municipal hall, school, communication tower, air strip, and military barracks. The military’s announcements of infrastructure improvements there sends a clear message of the country exercising its sovereignty and enhancing its position in the area.

Progress shot of the shelter port built on Pagasa Island last year

Screenshot / Facebook video / Municipal government of Kalayaan province.
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The Philippine Navy ship BRP Ivatan became the first vessel to dock at the new port in the island in May last year. Upgrades were also done to its airstrip, according to a report on the South China Morning Post. 

The Philippines has filed numerous diplomatic protests against China in recent weeks after Chinese fishing boats were spotted in the waters around Julian Felipe reef.  

Over 280 Chinese vessels were still in the West Philippine Sea as of May 9, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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