PAG-ASA—The aircraft carrying Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, military officials, and members of the media was challenged by China four times before reaching this island on Friday.
On its way to the disputed Pag-asa Island or Thitu, the aircraft showed up on the radar of the Chinese facilities on Subi Reef, which is just 15 nautical miles from Pag-asa.
Lorenzana later confirmed to reporters that the aircraft was challenged four times, but that it was a standard move by China.
"Automatic yun, protocol yan. We also replied that we are flying over Philippine territory... Sagutan lang yan, nothing untoward happened," he said.
It is Lorenzana's first time to visit the island in his capacity as Department of National Defense Secretary.
He said that every time a Philippine aircraft flies over disputed seas, China issues challenges.
"Mukhang normal na ginagawa yan eh kung meron tayong ginagawa dito sa South China Sea, or West Philippine Sea or Kalayaan group of islands," Lorenzana said.
"Tuwing pumupunta ang aircraft ng supply natin they're always challenged," he added.
Lorenzana visited Pag-asa Island to conduct an inspection ahead of the government's plan to build facilities and improve living conditions there.
The challenge from China came despite supposed warm relations with the Philippines. —NB, GMA News