REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The mayor of the Philippines’ Pag-Asa Island, which is surrounded by China’s newly-created man-made islands in the West Philippine Sea, says the 288 residents there are not living in fear of China’s activity in the region.
“I don’t think anyone anyone there is really afraid because no one is telling me they’re afraid,” Mayor Eugenio Bito-Onon Jr. said in an exclusive interview with Balitang America. “If they were afraid, in the first place, they wouldn’t be living there.”
Bito-Onon said life on Pag-Asa Island continues to be normal.
“Life is peaceful there, kids go to school, they’re living normal lives,” he said.
Recently, China’s president Xi Jinping publicly pledged not to militarize artificial islands it had built in the West Philippine Sea.
“I hope they uphold that pledge,” Bito-Onon said. “They continue to patrol around the Ayungin shoal. So let’s see. They’re saying it, but they’ll need to prove it.”
Bito-Onon said he hopes there will be a peaceful end to the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China in the region.
“There are so many cases around the world in conflict zones that have been resolved,” he said. “But they need to find the right way. And hopefully it won’t take long — like 10 or 12 years. Hopefully in five years it will all be resolved.”