Lawmakers of the Philippines visits Spratlys on fact-finding mission

A visit for a new kickstart

Five Philippines lawmakers have scheduled a short trip to the eight-island chain claimed by the Philippines on the contested Spratly Archipelago that sits on the South China Sea.

The trip will be a fact-finding mission to help government kickstart strong maritime defense and sustainable economic activities there, one of the lawmakers said.

"We will gather data in aid of legislation, leading to the strengthening of defense and the creation of more economic activities at the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratly Archipelago," Congressman Walden Bello said.

Above all, "the mission aims to support the Philippine government's rightful claims to the country's 320km economic zone and the islands in the Spratly archipelago that lie in the zone," said Bello.

The visit is meant to "underline the fact that no one country owns the West Philippines Sea [also known as the South China Sea], and will echo the government's call for a multilateral resolution to the territorial dispute," Bello explained.

The Kalayaan Island Group is considered part of Palawan province in the southwestern Philippines, according to a presidential decree issued by former strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1978.

It is composed of an eight-island chain claimed by the Philippines on Spratly's 700 atolls, islets, and reefs in the South China Sea. The island chain is the only territory claimed in the Spratly Archipelago which has an active local political structure.

It is also the least developed in Palawan province with Palawan's local government unit subsidizing the board and lodging of the island chain's community of 300 people — which includes 100 soldiers and 200 civilians.

Bello and Congressman Arlene Bagao of Akbayan, a sectoral party in the House of Representatives, will lead the official mission scheduled 3rd week of July.

Accompanying them are Congressmen Emmeline Aglipay of DIWA, another sectoral party; Ben Evardone and Teodoro Baguilat Jr, who represent Eastern Samar in the central Philippines and Ifugao in northern Luzon.

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