Philippines to build port on Nanshan Island in Spratlys

Philippines to build port on Nanshan Island in Spratlys

CONGRESS has earmarked P800 million to build a new fishing port on Nanshan Island in the South China Sea to encourage civilian settlements, a congressman said on Sunday.

The port is separate from the P1.5 billion allotted for the expansion of an airport on Thitu Island, Makati Rep. Luis Jose Angel N. Campos, Jr., vice chairman of the House of Representatives committee on appropriations, said in a statement.

“The shelter port and the airport expansion projects give substance to Speaker Martin Romualdez’s pledge to develop the Kalayaan Island Group in a bid to encourage civilian settlements there,” he added.

Mr. Campos said the port could be used by Filipino fishermen as a shelter amid increasing tensions with China.

Funding for the Nanshan shelter port is included in the Transportation department’s 2024 maritime transportation infrastructure program.

The Philippines has been unable to enforce a United Nations-backed arbitration court ruling in 2016 that voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea and has since filed hundreds of protests over what it calls encroachment and harassment by China’s coast guard and its vast fishing fleet.

China reclaimed about 3,200 acres (1,295 hectares) of land in the South China Sea from 2013 to 2016, according to US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Philippine Foreign Affairs department has urged China to stop what it called the “militarization of the South China Sea.”

In December, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said an additional P10.47 billion had been earmarked to upgrade the Philippines’ defense capacity and strengthen its presence in the South China Sea.

Nanshan Island, which the Philippines calls Lawak, is the eighth-largest natural island in the Spratly Islands, and the fourth-largest of the Philippine-occupied islands. It has an area of 7.93 hectares and is 158 kilometers east of Thitu Island, which the Philippines calls Pag-asa.

About 200 Filipinos live on Pag-asa Island, where the government set up a municipality under Palawan province in 1978. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz