MANILA—The government has begun repairing the collapsed runway on Pag-asa Island, the largest of its 9 features in the Spratly islands, a US think tank reported Friday.
Satellite images taken on May 17 showed equipment for dredging on the western edge of the island's runway that had collapsed into the sea years ago, Washington's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said.
"It appears that a grab dredger, consisting of a crane with a clamshell bucket, is installed on the smaller barge to the west, while the other carries a backhoe," it said.
"Loose sediment from dredging can be seen in the water around the two barges and freshly-deposited sand is visible along the northern edge of the runway."
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said repairs on the island are "consistent with our national sovereignty and jurisdiction."
In November, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government started building a new beach ramp on the island.
Pag-asa, the second largest naturally occurring island in the Spratlys archipelago, is the sole village of Kalayaan town in Palawan. Claimed by China but is under Philippine control, it is home to some 340 people.
The AMTI also reported other improvements on other islands of the Philippines.
"On Loaita Cay, a small sandbar, an additional hexagonal shelter has joined the modest outpost, visible in this image from May 17, 2018," it said.
"A new round-roofed shelter has been constructed on the eastern side of the small Philippine outpost on Commodore Reef, visible in imagery from May 1," it added.
On Nanshan Island, an empty field has been made into a helipad as of February 20.