The Philippines is considering inviting tourists to its largest and most strategic outpost in the South China Sea as part of its efforts to assert its sovereignty rights over some of the most disputed islands
The island of Titu in the Spratley archipelago is claimed by China and Vietnam in addition to the Philippines.
“We are on our way to restoring or repairing our runway in Pagas,” said Philippine Secretary of Defense Dolphin Lorenzana, referring to Titu, about 280 nautical miles off the Philippine coast.
“In addition, in the future we will be building facilities there for our troops and perhaps a few hotels for Filipinos who would like to come there as tourists,” he said at a press conference.
A beach ramp is being built to move construction materials and heavy equipment to the island’s 37-hectare (91-acre) area, where several soldiers and small civilians live. These people live there through government subsidies.
“A closed port is also being built there for large fishing boats, coast guard boats and warships,” National Security Adviser Hermogen Esperon said. “We haven’t left any islands, and no islands have been taken away from us since 2016, and we are strengthening our position.
In Spratley, the Philippines controls nine sites, Malaysia controls five, Taiwan One and Vietnam 27, under the Transparency Initiative for Maritime Asia.
In comparison, Subi Reef in China is a fortress just 14 nautical miles from Titu, home to some 400 separate buildings – far more than six other artificial islands in China in Spratley, three of which are equipped with radar, hangars, airstrips and surface facilities. The missiles are also supposed to be placed there.
In his annual address to the nation, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte cited these missiles as reasons not to provoke China and not to challenge its work at sea.
China maintains that it has historical ownership of almost all of the South China Sea, despite the 2016 international arbitration ruling, which states that the claim has no legal basis under international law.
Source: Reuters. Translation: Anna Boyko.