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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Aquino Vows to Improve Facilities in Spratlys

Is this called "Tweaking the nose of a sleeping giant???"

HANOI – The Philippine government will proceed with plans to improve military facilities in the Kalayaan group of islands in the disputed Spratlys, according to President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In an after-dinner talk with reporters at the Grand Plaza Hotel here last Wednesday night, Aquino said his government wants to improve the dilapidated airstrip on the Kalayaan Islands soon.

Aquino said the administration would formally inform other claimants to the Spratly Islands of the plan when all details have been finalized.

Navy Spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo had earlier said that the repair and maintenance of the outpost and airport runway are necessary for the delivery of supplies to troops stationed on the group of islands being contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and China.

The Spratlys is a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands in the South China Sea believed to contain significant oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines is proceeding with the repair, despite opposition from emerging superpower China.

Earlier, Chinese Ambassador to Manila Liu Jianchao had informed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the Philippine government’s plans to repair facilities in the Spratlys are not a welcome pronouncement, especially in light of the Aug. 23 Manila hostage incident in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

Attending his first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here, Aquino hhad earlier said that he would call for a “more formalized plan” in dealing with the disputed Spratlys Islands during the Oct. 28-30 meetings.

The Philippine leader said he will reiterate the call for adherence to the Code of Conduct over the South China Sea during one of his speeches for the ASEAN Summit.

“(We will) reiterate the call for adherence to the code of conduct and an even more formalized plan towards exploiting it (Spratly Islands) perhaps on a cooperative basis. It (the call) will be part of one of my speeches,” he said.

This position was shared by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet during a bilateral meeting with Aquino last Tuesday afternoon at the Presidential Palace.

The two leaders also have a similar stand with regard to their neighbor, the junta-ruled Myanmar(the former Burma).

Before the start of the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the National Convention Center here, Aquino and Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met and agreed for more cooperation between their governments in dealing with common problems such as the effects of their strengthening currencies against the United States’ dollar.

Meanwhile, former Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Deputy Secretary- General Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta has been appointed as the new ambassador to the ASEAN, replacing former Sen. Orlando Mercado.

The President said Villacorta's name has been submitted to the Commission on Appointments.

Villacorta, a professor emeritus of De La Salle University, was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.

He was also chairperson of the National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS).

Asked on his expectation for the Oct. 28-30 17th ASEAN Summit and its related summits, Aquino said: “As we can gather from the theme 'From Vision to Action,’ one really wants to see that there are many problems that affect the entire region from global warming to the issue of piracy, to so many other issues that really affect not only one state. . . even the growth of our economy is so dependent on acting in unison or in concert with those who are closest neighbors.”

“So we expect that after this ASEAN summit, there will be more concrete steps towards harmonizing and really unifying the entire ASEAN region to act as one for the continuum of the problems that we all face,” he said.

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