PAG-ASA ISLAND, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr on Monday, May 11, visited the disputed Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) at a time that tension in the region continues to escalate due to maritime disputes.
"I'm visiting this place to establish the fact that Pag-asa is municipality of Palawan and Palawan is a province of the Republic of the Philippines. Therefore, Pag-asa is a territory of the Republic of the Philippines," Catapang said in a statement obviously meant for China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea.
Pag-asa is the second biggest naturally occurring island in the West Philippines. It is home to a small community of about a hundred Filipinos who depend largely on government subsidy.
A military C-130 plane brought Catapang to the island and allowed him to go around the West Philippine Sea to check the status of Philippine-occupied features in the area and nearby reclamation activities of China.
"Before we landed we saw the reclamation in the Subi (Zamora) reef and it's really enormous," Catapang said.
He earlier expressed concern that China's reclamation activities will result in the militarization of the area and cut the country's access to the West Philippine Sea.
The C130 flight was not challenged by the Chinese when it flew over Chinese-occupied areas. The Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) recorded at least 6 incidents of harassment against Philippine planes by Chinese frigates recently.
Catapang also inspected military facilities and led various activities on the island. – Rappler.com