China tries to drive away planes with top Filipino officials

The military's visit "to Pag-asa 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", Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said in a statement.

MANILA-Ranking Philippine defense and military officials see nothing wrong with their decision to visit Pag-asa Island, the largest feature in the Kalayaan Island Group, last April 22.

The public argument comes amid a thaw in once-frosty relations between the neighbours after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June and moved to rekindle Manila's friendship with Beijing, which has been strained by the long-seething territorial disputes.

President Duterte earlier scrapped his plan to visit the Pag-asa Island on Independence Day following an appeal from China. Lorenzana said authorities have yet to get the fishermen's statements, but if true, the Philippines would file a diplomatic protest with China.

China challenged 2 Philippine planes, one of which was carrying Lorenzana, as it approached Pag-asa island, in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.

THE island-building spree along the disputed waters in the South China Sea happened during the term of former Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, the camp of his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said.

"We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development the bilateral relations are experiencing, 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-Philippine relations", he said.

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People lit candles for those killed and wounded and one woman painted the word "freedom" on her forehead. In addition, two police officers injured in the attack remain in the hospital with serious injuries.

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The report also showed stockpiles at the U.S. crude hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, rose 276,000 barrels in the week ended April 7th. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.64% to $56.59 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange.

About 1.6 billion pesos ($32 million) has been earmarked for the construction, including a fish port, solar power, water desalination plant, improved housing for soldiers, and facilities for marine research and tourists.

Philippine officials said they were investigating the reported attack on the Princess Johann boat, which the crew said occurred near the Chinese side of the Union Banks atoll on March 27.

He said Filipino pilots always reply that they are flying over Philippine territory, after they were warned by Chinese personnel that they were entering the periphery of Chinese installations and told to avoid miscalculation.

Lorenzana however downplayed the incident as part of "protocol".

The visit of security officials to Pag-asa Island was just routine and in line with global law, MalacaƱang said yesterday, after China expressed alarm over the trip to the island in the disputed Spratly chain.

The President instead has directed the military to fortify the islands in the West Philippines now occupied by Filipino soldiers. Because once we fix the runway, it will be good to open this to many visitors.

This island has been neglected for years, although manned by a Philippine Army contingent to keep guard on it for national security reasons.


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