The Philippines announced it would reinforce its military facilities on islands and shoals in the south China Sea and declared preliminary plans to develop a new port and to have an existing jagged airstrip. Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana had been arranged to review an outpost on Thitu, one of the Spratly Islands discussed, but his trip was canceled due to “safety issues” and he spent the day instead at a military base where he undraped the development plans. “We will build a runway and a pier, for our ships” on Thitu, Lorenzana told troops at the Western Command’s 41st anniversary. “We are a bit blind in that area.” Thitu is nearby Subi Reef, one of seven manmade islands in the Spratlys that China is suspected of militarizing with surface-to-air missiles and other armaments.
The Philippines has bickered with China for years over the South China Sea, but associations seem to have amended under President Rodrigo Duterte, who was arranged to meet Chinese Deputy Premier Wang Yang in Davao City in the southern Philippines. The minister mentioned Duterte had approved to enhance facilities not only on Thitu but on the other eight features in the South China Sea that it occupies. Defense Ministry spokesman Arsenio Andolong said landing on the permeable runway on Thitu after dense rains would have been perilous.
A senior Philippine general mentioned, the military also prevented a scheduled trip by a group of lawmakers to Thitu on Thursday, more because of distress over how China would respond. “That’s a contested area, that’s not 100 percent ours,” Lieutenant-General Raul del Rosario said at the Congressional hearing. “That’s why we are concerned if you fly there. Every time an aircraft flies there, it gets a warning and there are times they fire flares towards the aircraft.” The military failed to comment on Rosario’s statement. China claims most of the China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about $ 5 trillion of goods passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.