Malacañang said Friday President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to visit Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea within his term. “Well, I think, time will really come that the President will visit the Pag-asa Island,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a video interview.
Roque said a visit of the President to the Pag-asa Island would serve as an evidence of sovereignty.
“If the President will not do it now, I think, before his term will be finished, he will go there, not only to show to the world our entitlement in Kalayaan but to visit our soldiers and our countrymen living there,” he said.
Pag-asa Island is part of the disputed Spratly Group of Islands, which is also being claimed by China through its nine-dash line map that covers nearly the whole of South China Sea.
In July 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case nullifying China’s nine-dash line map.
Duterte temporarily shelved the PCA’s decision to give way for friendly and peaceful dialogues but told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would raise the issue again before his term ends in 2022.
In April last year, Duterte said he will visit Pag-asa Island but eventually scrapped his plan, including the planting of the national flag to preserve the revived and improving China-Philippines relations.
Pag-asa Island is the second largest natural island in the Spratlys where Palawan’s municipality of Kalayaan is located and is home to more than 300 people, including government troops.
Former president Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree in 1978 creating the municipality of Kalayaan.
At present, the Philippines exercises jurisdiction over two reefs and eight islets, including the 32.7-hectare Pag-asa, which has an old 1.4-km. airstrip, lying-in clinic, and an elementary school.
Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam and Malaysia have overlapping claims in the Spratly Archipelago. PNA