MANILA— Presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday visited Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea amid tensions in the disputed waters.
Pag-asa Island, located some 450 kilometers west of mainland Palawan, hosts Kalayaan town, home to a military outpost and a civilian community.
Lacson, chairman of Partido Reporma, is on the island with senatorial aspirant and former police chief Guillermo Eleazar, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and the party's secretary-general Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, the senator's camp said.
It is so far unclear what prompted the senator's visit, but photos showed that they joined residents and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in raising the Philippine flag there.
The senator is chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the resource-rich and disputed South China Sea, 90 percent of which is being claimed by Beijing.
A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague junked China's claims and ruled in favor of Manila. Beijing has since shunned the ruling and continues military and island-building activities in the resource-rich waters.
This week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 3 Chinese vessels “blocked and water cannoned” 2 Philippine supply boats in Ayungin Shoal this week.
The boats were supposed to transport food supplies to military personnel in the area.
The agency criticized the incident and said these were illegal because the Chinese vessels were in the country's territory.
Analysts have said that the West Philippine Sea should be a primary concern in the 2022 elections.
— with reports from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News