By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

Philippine lawmakers will allot P3 billion to develop islands in the South China Sea, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said on Thursday, amid worsening tensions with China.

“We want to invest more of the resources because of the strategic importance and value it brings to all of us,” he told a news briefing.

The Speaker said lawmakers are looking at funding not just defense and security agencies but also local governments as well as the Tourism department for these ventures.

Mr. Romualdez said Congress might increase the budget of the Public Works department so it could build infrastructure in Philippine-claimed islands in the South China Sea.

Congressmen will also consider giving solar-powered shelters and cold storage facilities to residents of Thitu Island, a Philippine-occupied territory in the Spratlys that it calls Pag-asa.

The Speaker said the runway at Thitu Island could be extended by up to 500 meters to accommodate larger aircraft, as well as widen the opposite area to serve as shelter for fishing vessels during bad weather.

Mr. Romualdez and several lawmakers on Thursday visited Thitu Island where they saw Chinese militia vessels.

The House of Representatives approved House Bill No. 8980 or the proposed 2024 budget last week. A small committee was also created to fine-tune changes to the bill by Oct. 10.

Mr. Romualdez said confidential funds should be given to agencies that are “best suited in the aspects of deploying proper resources and personnel for the promotion of peace and security.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Romeo S. Brawner said the country has yet to develop eight other maritime spots within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“The name of the game in the West Philippine Sea is effective presence,” Mr. Brawner told the briefing, referring to areas of the South China Sea within the country’s exclusive economic zone.