CHINA was gravely concerned with the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to Pag-asa Island off Palawan which is one of the islands occupied by the Philippines in the disputed waters.
In fact, the Philippine aircraft carrying Lorenzana, military officials and members of the media was allegedly challenged four times and asked to leave by the Chinese Coast Guard while on its way to the island.
But the Defense chief’s group didn’t flinch over China’s bullying tactics and answered that they were flying over Philippine territory. They went on with their visit and talked with the soldiers stationed there.
The same thing happened to the plane carrying AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año along with several government and military officials who served as advance party to Lorenzana’s visit.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the trip conducted by Lorenzana, Año and other officials to the area was part of the government mandate to ensure the safety, welfare and lives of the Filipinos there.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) insisted that Pag-asa and the larger Kalayaan Group is a municipality of the province of Palawan. But for China, Pag-asa Island is a portion of the territory they call Zhongye Dao.
President Duterte ordered the improvement of the living conditions and quarters of the soldiers deployed to Pag-asa. A total of P1.6 billion was set aside for its development.
Lorenzana said that within the next few weeks, a quay would be built on Pag-asa where construction materials would be landed for repairs to be conducted on an existing airstrip.
Chinese Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Lorenzana’s action ran counter to the important consensus which was to properly deal with the South China Sea issue that was reached by the two leaderships.
No matter how Chinese officials may react to Lorenzana’s action, the Defense secretary’s visit to Pag-asa is a major shift in the government’s moves concerning the matter and is lauded by many.
It is a strong and crucial sign that we will not tremble in fear, surrender or give up our islands in the disputed waters. We can choose to resist and stand our ground on our claims if need be.
Yes, we are grateful for all the pledges of investments from China and the improvement of bilateral relations. But in no way does this mean that we will just bow our heads and surrender our claims to our territorial waters.
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