Philippines maintains control over Pagasa Island

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Friday, March 30, 2012

MANILA -- The construction of a ferry wharf in Pagasa Island in the contested West Philippine Sea falls within the right of the Philippine government to exercise its sovereignty in bringing progress to the Filipinos occupying the island, a senior government official said Friday.

Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said that the building of a ferry pier in Pagasa Island of the Kalayaan Group of Islands (KIG) is a "clear exercise" of Philippine sovereignty.

"The municipality of Kalayaan, through the duly elected mayor, is exercising that sovereignty. The Philippines must bring progress and development to the municipality of Kalayaan, an obligation of the government for the Filipinos living in the islands of the municipality," he said.

Hernandez said the country's foreign policy when it comes to the West Philippine Sea is: "What is ours is ours."

"Pagasa Island is ours. It is part of the municipality of Kalayaan. The Philippines exercises territorial sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, over the municipality Kalayaan including Pagasa island," he said.

Last week, China's Foreign Ministry protested the plan to develop the Pagasa Island, which it calls Zhongye, and said that it will oppose any illegal activities there.

But the Aquino administration brushed aside Beijing's protest, saying that it will continue its plan to build a ferry wharf in the island.

"The pier will facilitate the delivery of basic necessities and government services for the Filipinos in Pagasa," Hernandez said.

"The construction of the pier and the development of Pagasa and the entire municipality of Kalayaan are state functions. The task must proceed as scheduled," he added.

The Pagasa island sits on the Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan. It is part of the contested waters that are being claimed in whole by China and in part by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. (CVB/Sunnex)

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