The Department of National Defense of the Philippines decided to hold off repairs and other planned infrastructure projects in Pag-asa Island, one of the seven islets and two reef occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed Spratly Group of Islands in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, the maintenance and repair of facilities in Pag-Asa Island are not covered by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of parties involved in the West Philippine Sea territorial disputes.
The government official clarified that although repair and maintenance is okay but the Philippines will be moving construction materials to Pag-Asa, to build a port and doing so could change the landscape which is not allowed in the DOC.
The Philippines earlier approved plans for repair of the Rancudo airfield in the island, which is considered as a key supply line for troops and the 200 civilian residents of Pag-Asa.
Pag-Asa Island is considered as the seat of Kalayaan town of Palawan that has jurisdiction over the Philippine-held territory in the disputed region, which is also claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also noted that the Philippines could not repair the airfield because the construction materials will be coming from outside. Getting inside by an aircraft is very expensive an very impractical, so we have to bring in the boat but the boat cannot come because there is no pier.