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President Duterte said yesterday that he might go and plant the Philippine flag to emphasize the country’s jurisdiction over Pag-asa Island on Independence Day.
“Sa coming Independence Day natin, I might, I may go to Pag-asa Island to raise the flag there,” Duterte said in an ambush interview in Camp Artemio Ricarte, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. “We have to maintain our jurisdiction over South China Sea,” he added.
“We have to fortify, I must build bunkers there or houses and make provisions for habitation,” Duterte said.
Duterte reiterated his desire to rename the Benham Rise to the Philippine Ridge to emphasize the country’s sovereign rights in the area.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella has said that a motion has been made subject to the conduct of the requisite legal and logistical study to effect the change.
Duterte has set aside talks with China over the South China Sea and instead decided to strengthen the Philippines’ relations with China.
He has repeatedly assured Filipinos that he will bring up the issue within his term and they will talk nothing but the issue when the right time comes.
The 37.2-hectare Pag-asa Island, the second largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands, lies 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City.
Though the island is administered as part of Kalayaan, Palawan, it is also being claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China, the Philippines, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nation member-states have expressed willingness to draft a framework for a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea within this year.
China is set to meet senior officials of the ASEAN member-states in May 2017 to properly handle the maritime dispute. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)