Gov’t eyes building hotels on Pag-asa Island

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — Planning your next trip? Why not include Pag-asa Island in your travel bucket list?

The government is eyeing to build hotels on Pag-asa, one of the biggest islands in the disputed Spratlys in the South China Sea.

“In the future, we’ll be building structures for our troops there and maybe some hotels for Filipinos who would like to go there as tourists,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday in a media briefing.

The Spratlys is a group of islands in the South China Sea known locally as the Kalayaan Island Group, claimed by a number of countries including the Philippines and China.

The Philippines has control over Pag-asa, which is the seat of the municipal government of Kalayaan under Palawan province. The government has been steadily building structures there, including a beaching ramp which it eyes to complete within the year.

Lorenzana said that once the beaching ramp, which is used to bring in construction materials and heavy equipment from Puerto Princesa to the island, is complete, the government could begin paving and even expanding the runway.

The government is also building other structures in the island group.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the Philippines has built three lighthouses in three islands in Kalayaan, including Pag-asa, and it plans to put up five more within the year.

“The lighthouse may be a simple structure, but it serves the purpose of safety of life at sea and navigation and it also means our sovereign right, sovereignty on the islands itself,” Esperon said.

In February, US-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reported that China responded to the Philippines’ reclamation activities in Pag-asa Island by sending up to 95 ships, including militia, near the island.

Lorenzana then defended the country’s construction activities, saying these did not violate international law.

The Armed Forces confirmed the report in April, initially telling CNN Philippines it has spotted over 600 ships swarming the vicinity of Pag-asa in the first quarter of 2019. The military later confirmed the presence of ships, but the number was only 275.

President Rodrigo Duterte has told China to “lay off” Pag-asa and suggested a “compromise” with the East Asian giant.