Philippines suspends improvement of structures in West Philippine Sea amid case vs. China

5:46:00 AM
MANILA, -- While China continues with the construction of structures in the highly-contested Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine government held in abeyance the improvement of its structures in the islands it occupies to avoid tension.

No less than President Benigno Aquino III ordered the status quo in the areas claimed by the Philippines, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told the Senate finance committee Friday during the hearing on the proposed Defense Department budget for 2015.

“We got specific instruction from the President not to desert the status quo. We have funds for the improvement but this is now being held in abeyance because of the case we have filed. It might affect the case that we have filed before the international tribunal,” Gazmin said.

One of the projects still awaiting the President’s go-signal is the improvement of the dilapidated Pag-asa airstrip.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the Philippines is exercising “maximum restraint so that we can  maintain our moral high ground in terms of the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.”

Batino said the DND continues to perform, as much as it can under the legal constraints, its mandate in maintaining awareness in what is happening in the West Philippine Sea by providing reports to the national government immediately in order to guide the Department of Foreign Affairs in its issuances of policies.

A Marine on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz loads ammo to the 50 caliber machine gun in preparation for the live-firing gun exercise off the seas of Darwin as part of Kakadu 2014.

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