Philippine to develop, urbanize disputed islands

Bangkok, Jan 15 (EFE).- The Philippine army announced Monday it would urbanize some of the islands in the South China Sea it considers part of its territory and whose sovereignty it disputes with Beijing.

“We’d like to improve all the nine, especially the islands we are occupying,” Army Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner told the media Monday in statements in English and Tagalog.

The army’s announcement comes at a time of special tension with China, after several incidents between ships from both countries have taken place in recent months and political leaders have exchanged accusations.

Several of the incidents occurred in the vicinity of Thitu Island, known as Pagasa, about 500 kilometers west of the island of Palawan and included on the list of those the Philippines plans to develop to improve the living conditions of military detachments there.

Asked if this move could provoke Beijing’s anger, Brawner said the Philippines is limited to taking care of its soldiers and offering them greater comforts.

“We’re just trying to make them more livable for our soldiers, because their conditions are very difficult,” he said.

In recent months, there have been altercations between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety and where territories are also disputed with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.

Beijing alleges historical reasons for claiming sovereignty in the South China Sea, but in 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Manila in its complaint against the claims of Chinese authorities, a decision they refused to abide by. EFE


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