The government will push through with its plan to develop and fortify facilities on Pag-asa Island despite the protest raised by China.
President Duterte recently argued that it is the “duty” of the country to develop its own territory which has been by occupied by the government since 1970s.
“Yes, of course, because that is part of our duty as nation,” Duterte said in a media interview during visit to a Chinese ship docked in Davao City last Monday, when asked if the repair works on the island will continue.
“Well, they can always look the way around. We have been there since 1974 by the way,” he added.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua earlier claimed that the Philippines’ occupation and construction of structures on the disputed island were illegal.
The ambassador’s remarks came after defense and military defense officials went to Pag-aga Island to meet the government troops and inspect the local facilities.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said at least R1.6 billion has been allocated for the construction of facilities, including a fish port, improved shelter for soldiers, and marine research and tourist center, in the island.
Pag-Asa island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are part of the municipality of Palawan.
President Duterte earlier scrapped his plan to visit the Pag-asa Island on Independence Day following an appeal from China. Duterte earlier wanted to plant the Philippine flag on the island to assert the country’s territorial rights.
The President instead has directed the military to fortify the islands in the West Philippines currently occupied by Filipino soldiers. (GENALYN KABILING)