Philip­pines halts re­pairs on Spratlys airstrip ahead of United Na­tions suit

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

The Philip­pines has halted the re­pair of its airstrip in the dis­puted Spratly is­lands due to its pend­ing suit at The Hague chal­leng­ing the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China’s (PRC) claim over the wa­ters, a pres­i­den­tial spokesman said Sun­day.

The work on the airstrip on Thitu is­land, which the Philip­pines calls Pagasa and which hosts a small com­mu­nity, comes as the PRC builds up out­crop­pings in the wa­ters into is­lands that can host mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties.

“The re­pair has been stopped be­cause we up­hold the prin­ci­ple of keep­ing the sta­tus quo in the ar­eas in­volved,” said Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Her­minio Coloma.

“This is part of our strat­egy for a rules-based and diplo­matic ap­proach where we have filed an ar­bi­tra­tion case with the U.N. tri­bunal,” he added.

The tiny airstrip on Pagasa had been largely used to bring in sup­plies for the small town that the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished there to stake its claim over part of the Spratlys.

How­ever the airstrip has de­te­ri­o­rated over the years, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to rely on ships which must go through a gaunt­let of PRC ves­sels to reach the is­land.

The PRC claims al­most all of the Spratlys and the South China Sea, even ar­eas close to the coasts of its neigh­bors. Its claim is dis­puted by the Philip­pines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Viet­nam and the Re­pub­lic of China (Tai­wan).

The wa­ters are a cru­cial sea lane and rich fish­ing ground also be­lieved to hold large min­eral re­sources.

In 2013 the Philip­pines asked The Hague, based in the Nether­lands, to de­clare the PRC’s claim in­valid and in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.

Hear­ings — look­ing at whether Manila’s com­plaint has le­gal merit as well as whether the court has ju­ris­dic­tion over the case — are set to be­gin next month.


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