THE CHINESE government deployed a paramilitary force in December last year in response to the ongoing construction by the Philippine government of a beaching ramp on Pagasa Island, also known as Thitu, according to American-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). “China has responded to this new construction by deploying a large fleet of ships from Subi Reef, just over 12 nautical miles southwest of Thitu. These include several People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) and China Coast Guard (CCG) ships, along with dozens of fishing vessels ranging in size from 30 to 70 meters,” said AMTI in its report on Feb. 6. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said last Feb. 4 that the rehabilitation of Pagasa Island and the construction of a beaching ramp there is continuing. The Philippines, which won an arbitral ruling in an international court on the disputed waters, claims Pagasa in the Spratlys group of islands as part of the West Philippine Sea. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras