Published in ABS-CBNnews.com
Manila- The Philippine governement may have stopped rehabilitation of the airstrip in Pagasa Island but this does not mean that the country has abandoned the disputed area.
Speaking to reporters,Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the halt in planned improvements on a military airstrip in the dispute South China Sea will have no effect on supply runs to the island.
"Practically, there is no effect. As of now, we can continue our resupply operations, the logistics run, including the transport of troops for rotation," Cabunoc said.
A spokeswoman of President Aquino said the government had suspended long-planned upgrade work on a military runway in the disputed Spratly islands to boost chances of a favorable ruling at the UN against Beijing over the tense territorial row.
"We wanted to maintain the moral high ground in light of the case we filed at the (UN) arbitration tribunal regarding the West Philippine Sea," Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said, using the Filipino name for the area.
"We chose...to ease tensions and avoid any incident that may be construed as ramping up tensions or trying to provoke any of the claimant countries," Valte said over government radio on Saturday.
Pagasa is one of 9 areas in the disputed Spratly Islands occupied by Filipino troops. Hundreds of civilians are living on Pagasa Island which serves as the seat of government of Palawan's Kalayaan town.
The runway is used mainly by military aircraft to resupply the Filipino troops guarding the island and nearby rocks, as well as a small community of Filipino civilians living on Pagasa.
The upgrade plans were suspended by Aquino "sometime in the middle of 2014," Valte said.
The airstrip project, as well as acquisitions of Navy vessels, were part of Aquino's efforts to upgrade the capability of the Philippine military, one of the most poorly equipped in the region.
China has refused to take part in UN arbitration with the Philippines, and warned Manila that bilateral ties will suffer.
The two countries have been involved in several tense confrontations in the South China Sea in recent months.
Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the decision was also meant to ease the tension in the region, even as China continue to reclaim its occupied reefs which may be turned into military bases.
With a report by Agence France-Presse