DESPITE China's adversarial stance, the Philippine government’s plan to improve the facilities in the disputed Pagasa Island would “go on smoothly,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Lorenzana said the administration was expecting China’s protest as it proceeds with the repairs of dilapidated runway and construction of new facilities on Philippine-occupied Pagasa Island.
But the Defense chief was confident that China would not carry out “violent actions” against the Philippines since both countries already established “good working relationship.”
“I don’t think they will do any violent action. They will protest. I was told by [Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua] that anything we do there, they are going to protest. It’s okay. Anyway, whatever you do there, they also protest,” Lorenzana said.
“What we are doing is improving our own, the islands that we are occupying. We have occupied since 1969, the first time we occupied those islands there in the Kalayaan Island Group. So that’s the status quo now. I’m sure that the repair of Pagasa will go on smoothly,” he added.
Pagasa Island is the biggest island in the contested Spratlys claimed by the Philippines and dubbed as the Kalayaan Island Group.
Zhao had deemed as “illegal” the Philippine government’s plan to overhaul the structures in Pagasa Island.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, had insisted the need to push through with the improvement of the Philippine-owned island.
Lorenzana said the government had allocated P1.6 billion to restore the eroding facilities in the Pagasa Island.
He said the repairs might be completed after one and a half years.
“It will be done in stages. The first stage is to construct a beaching ramp for our ship to dock so that we can bring in construction materials and heavy equipment. After that is finished, they will bring in the construction materials. Then, they will repair the runway,” the Defense Secretary said.
“And then later on, they will extend for another 55 meters to make it viable for bigger aircrafts. Our timetable is maybe 18 months, [repairs will be finished],” he added. (SunStar Philippines)