Philippines to repair military barracks on Pag-asa Island

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana talks to soldiers on Pag-asa Island in April 2017. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 20) — The government will continue to improve military facilities on Pag-asa Island in 2019, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

Speaking at the year-end press conference of the Department of National Defense, Lorenzana said the government will repair the barracks for soldiers stationed on Pag-asa, one of the biggest islands in the disputed Spratlys in the South China Sea.

"Meron tayong pera kasi na nakalaan na 'yung mga tirahan ng ating mga sundalo, kasi ngayon mga kubo-kubo lang yun e. Bigyan naman natin sila ng maganda tirahan, mga barracks especially doon sa Pag-asa," Lorenzana said.

[Translation: "We have money allotted money for the shelters of our soldiers because right now they live in nipa huts only. Let's give them proper housing, barracks, especially on Pag-asa."]

"We are going to fortify or improve the living conditions, the quarters of our troops (on Philippine-occupied islands)," Lorenzana added.

He said the construction of a beaching ramp there is already 42 percent finished, and once completed, this will enable authorities to bring in construction equipment.

"Kung wala 'yun 'di tayo makdala ng mga bulldozer, mga grader, mixer, tsaka buhangin, semento (Without that we can't bring in bulldozer, grader, mixer, sand, and cement) to repair our runway," Lorenzana said.

The government expects the Pag-asa runway to be completely repaired by the end of 2019, a year after construction began in May 2018.

Lorenzana earlier revealed that China tried to stop the government from repairing structures on Pag-asa Island, which Beijing also claims.

"We pointed out to them that it's just proper for us to improve the runway and every facility in the Pag-asa because they have already developed Subi Reef," Lorenzana said in a forum in November. China has installed missile systems and other equipment in Subi Reef, one of the China-occupied features in the the Spratly group of islands.

READ: China tried to stop repairs, Lorenzana's visit to Pag-asa Island  

Pag-asa Island is the seat of the Kalayaan municipal government under the province of Palawan. Philippine troops and a community of fishermen live on the island.