MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will have to rely on its naval assets to deliver supplies for troops in the Pagasa island.
“The AFP can use its naval assets for the routine logistics run and transport of troops who are stationed there,” said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc.
Cabunoc is referring to the government’s decision to shelve improvements on a military airstrip in the island.
"We wanted to maintain the moral high ground in light of the case we filed at the (UN) arbitration tribunal regarding the West Philippine Sea," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday.
"We chose... to ease tensions and avoid any incident that may be construed as ramping up tensions or trying to provoke any of the claimant countries," she added.
The Philippines infuriated China in March by asking a United Nations tribunal to declare Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) a violation of international law.
China claims almost all of the sea, a vital avenue for world trade that is also believed to harbor vast oil and gas reserves.
But its claims overlap in parts with those of the Philippines, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
“The AFP respects the government’s position about the runway project,” Cabunoc said.
The small runway lies on Thitu, the largest of several islands and reefs in the Spratly group that are garrisoned by Filipino soldiers but also claimed by China.
The runway is used mainly by military aircraft to resupply the Filipino troops guarding the island and nearby rocks, as well as a small community of Filipino civilians living on Thitu.
The upgrade plans were suspended by Aquino "sometime in the middle of 2014,” Valte said.
The airstrip project, as well as acquisitions of navy vessels, were part of Aquino's efforts to upgrade the capability of the Philippine military, one of the most poorly equipped in the region. – with reports from Agence France-Presse