Manila – Philippines on Tuesday said it had completed the construction of a beach ramp on the largest island it occupies in the disputed South China Sea, official said.
According to the Department of Defence, construction of the ramp on Pag-asa Island, internationally called Thitu Island, began in November 2017, but was only officially opened on Tuesday due to delays caused by bad weather, other factors.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the ramp would allow the government to proceed with a total of 1.3 billion pesos (or 26 million dollars) worth of projects for Pag-asa, including the repair of the island’s runway.
“This is very significant because with the beaching ramp, we can bring in more materials, equipment to repair and then later on maintain our airstrip.
“Before the completion of the facility, ships would have to anchor about 500 metres from the island to deliver goods. Small boats will have to gather the supplies from the ships then to the island, Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said amid opposition from China over the construction in Pag-asa, there was no attempt to militarise the island in spite arming the soldiers there.
“The purpose of this is to develop this area into a viable community.
“China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over reefs and outcrops in the area, also claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan,” he said.