PH starts runway repair in Spratlys

By: Inquirer.net May 26,2018 - 07:59 PM

THE Philippines has finally started the long overdue repairs for the runway on Pagasa Island (Thitu) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Satellite images from May 17 show two barges anchored off the western edge of Pagasa’s “crumbling airstrip,” the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) said yesterday.

“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. 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,” Amti said.

The think tank said that this method of dredging is similar to what Vietnam has been doing at some of its outposts.

“While still harmful to the marine environment, it affects surrounding reefs at a smaller scale and is far less environmentally destructive than the suction cutter dredging undertaken by China, which destroyed thousands of acres of reef from late 2013 to early 2017,” it said.

In April 2017, the Philippine government announced that it will repair the runway on Pagasa and construct a beach ramp or a port to allow ships to bring in construction materials for the building and repair of facilities.

Repairs of the eroded airstrip have been stalled for a long time over fears of China’s reaction. The previous administration had alloted P1.6 billion for the long-delayed upgrades.

Pagasa is the biggest of the nine Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys, inhabited by about a hundred civilians and a small batch of troops. It features an eroded 1.3-kilometer coral airstrip built in the 1970s which has become risky for landing big planes.

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TAGS: ph, repair, runway, Spratlys, starts

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