Palace defends visit of Lorenzana, Ano to Pag-asa Island
Malacanang on Sunday defended the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano and other military officials to Pag-asa Island.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the visit, done April 21, to the disputed island "is part of the efforts to improve the safety, welfare, livelihood of Filipinos residing and living in the municipality of Kalayaan which is part of the province of Palawan."
He said the country has been doing customary and routine maritime patrol and overflight in the West Philippine Sea which are lawful activities under international law.
"Such flights will likewise enable us to reach our municipality," he added.
All the statement came after China expressed grave concern over the visit of military officials in Pag-asa Island.
"This move runs counter to the important consensus reached between the two leadership which is to properly deal with the South China Sea issue. Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeperson Lu Kang in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Lorenzana's visit is part of his many responsibilities.
"He routinely inspects all facilities under the department's administrative supervision. Pag-asa Island is one those facilities. The trip was meant to see what is needed to improve the living conditions, safety and personal security of Filipinos on the island, who rely on their government to see to their welfare in such a far flung place," he said.
Ano said it is his job to visit the troops manning the country's territory.
"There is nothing wrong with our visit. It’s part of my job. We never land in any island except ours where our troops are stationed. Pagasa is a municipality of Palawan," he said.
Kang said China hopes the Philippines could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development that the bilateral relations are experiencing.
They also hope the country will "faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leadership, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippines relation." Ella Dionisio/DMS