PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will visit Pag-asa Island within his term, Malacañang said on Friday, in bid to assert the country’s sovereign rights over the Kalayaan area situated within the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a Skype interview with Malacañang reporters, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said there was no exact date yet for Duterte’s visit but added that the President would visit the island before his term ends in 2022.
“Well, tingin ko po darating at darating ang panahon na pupuntahan ni Presidente ang Pag-asa Island. Ang pagbisita ng isang Presidente sa Pag-asa ‘yan po ay ebidensya ng sovereignty at kung hindi man ngayon ‘yan gagawin ng Presidente, tingin ko bago matapos ang termino niya,” Roque said.
(Well, I think time will come the President will visit Pag-asa Island. The visit of the President is an evidence of our sovereignty and if the President can’t do it now, I think before his term ends.)
“Pupunta siya roon hindi lang para ipakita sa buong daigdig ang ating titulo sa Kalayaan kundi na rin para dalawin ‘yung ating mga kasundaluhan at ating mga kababayan na naninirahan doon sa Kalayaan,” he said.
(He will visit there not only to show the world our ownership of Kalayaan but also to visit our soldiers and fellow Filipinos living there in Kalayaan.)
Roque made the statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hinted that the President would visit the island within the year.
“It was just postponed. He will visit (Pag-asa) in the future,” Lorenzana told reporters when asked if Duterte still intended to push through with his Pag-asa Island trip following his visit to the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise).
Last year, Lorenzana visited Pag-asa Island, triggering concerns from China, which has laid claim almost on the entire West Philippine Sea.
Duterte scrapped his plan to visit the island on Independence Day to plant the Philippine flag in a bid to assert the country’s territorial rights.
The President said, however, that China sent word to him, saying, “Please do not do that.”
“China said: ‘what will happen if every head of state will go there to claim?’ They said, if every head of state of the contending parties there around the West Philippine Sea, they call it the South China Sea, will go there to plant their flags. There’ll be likely trouble,” according to Duterte.
“So because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship, we will not, I will not go there (in Pagasa Island) to raise the Philippine flag,” he added.