MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy has committed to deliver to Pag-asa (Thitu) Island the materials and equipment for much-needed repairs of facilities there before the rainy season.
"The timeline just for the delivery is before the rainy season so that the sea conditions will not be rough when we deliver our materials and equipment to Pag-asa," Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado said on Wednesday, May 10.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who visited Pag-asa Island with other Philippine security officials in April, announced the allocation of P1.6 billion to fund long-delayed plans to repair facilities in the disputed island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Lorenzana had said during his April visit that he wanted naval engineers to begin work immediately. (READ: PH plans for Pag-asa to test Duterte's friendship with China)
On Wednesday, Mercado said they have started to plan the implementation of Lorenzana's orders.
"We are planning how we are going to undertake the directive of Secretary Lorenzana to improve some of the facilities at Pag-asa. We are trying to improve the situation of our constituents there and our fishermen who take shelter at Pag-asa," he said.
It is not clear when construction is expected to begin. "As to the construction, we are not putting any timeline. Our focus right now is just to deliver the materials and equipment to Pag-asa," Mercado said.
It turned out the project to repair the facilities on Pag-asa, which was already bid out by the previous administration, would have to be renegotiated.
The Aquino government had allocated funds to repair the dilapidated runway there but kept deferring construction, concerned that it would affect the arbitration case the country filed against China.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said there is no reason not to proceed with the repairs.
"It should be repaired. I don't see a problem repairing the runway," he said. "That runway was built even before the Declaration of Conduct was signed in 2002, the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct. That is just maintaining the runway." – Rappler.com