China is gravely concerned and dissatisfied with the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to the disputed Pag-asa Island on Friday.
"Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a press briefing on Friday.
Lu said the visit of Lorenzana and top military officials, including Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, to Pag-asa Island "runs counter to the important consensus reached between the two leadership which is to properly deal with the South China Sea issue."
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), meanwhile, insisted in the statement that Pag-asa Island is part of Palawan.
"The Chinese have conveyed their sentiments. We have already stated our position that Pag-asa, and the larger Kalayaan Group, is a municipality of Palawan and that our visits there are part of the government mandate to ensure the safety, well being, livelihood and and personal security of our citizens there," the DFA said.
The disputed island near Palawan province is called Zhongye Dao by China. It belongs to the Spratly Group of Islands, called Nansha Islands by the Chinese.
During his visit on Friday to Pag-asa, the Defense chief said the Philippine government has allocated P1.6 billion for the development of the disputed island.
Lorenzana also announced that even President Rodrigo Duterte plans to stay overnight in the disputed island.
"We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development the bilateral relations are experiencing, faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leadership, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations," Lu said during the briefing.
During the visit, the Defense chief revealed that his aircraft was challenged by Chinese authorities four times while they were on their way to Pag-Asa Island.
He, however, clarified that it was a normal reaction from the Chinese authorities.
Former President Fidel Ramos, who had resigned as the Philippines' special envoy to China, said that the Philippines should ignore the incident.
During the briefing, Lu said that China and the Philippines have been "keeping good communication" to address maritime issues since Duterte's visit to their country last year.
China and the Philippines are scheduled to start bilateral talks on the South China Sea disputes in May. —ALG, GMA News