China is “bullying” the Philippines in the Spratly Islands because it sees the Armed Forces as the “weakest” among the military forces in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday.

“Nakikita nila (China) sa ating region, in terms of capability of armed forces, tayo ang pinakamahina… kung ikaw man ang mangbu-bully hahanapin mo ‘yung pinakamahina, ‘wag kang kukuha ng kapantay mo,” Gazmin said in a forum of defense reporters Tuesday.

The defense chief made the remarks when asked why he thinks China always protests development plans in Philippine-occupied islands.

“Kita mo ang Malaysia malakas ‘yung kanilang armed forces, Vietnam malakas ang armed forces nila, Brunei malakas din ang armed forces nila, tayo below par,” Gazmin said.

China’s latest protest came after the local government of Kalayaan, the Philippine town that has jurisdiction over seven islands and two reefs in the Spratlys, announced a plan to build a beaching ramp in Pag-Asa Island.

“That is ours, we don’t have to ask permission from anyone to build anything,” Gazmin said, adding that the beaching ramp is only aimed at boosting the economy of the island.

Tourism plans

Aside from spurring economic growth by aiding fishermen, the planned pier is also expected to open opportunities to tourism, according to Gazmin.

“Pagka nagkaroon ng beaching ramp, maayos natin yung runway. ‘Yung runway, puwedeng babaan ng eroplano para kumuha ng mga isdang nahuhuli nung ating mangingisda, maibalik dito ng mas mabilis kaysa sa barko,” he said.

“Puwede rin tayong magtayo ng refrigerator para sa ganun nai-istore natin at napipreserve natin yung ating mga huling mga isda, puwede rin nating gawing tourist area gaya ng ginawa ng ibang bansa dun sa kani-kanilang claimed area,” Gazmin said.

Officials of Kalayaan town and the Philippine Ports Authority are still discussing how much will be spent for the beaching ramp, which may cost P300 million, the defense chief said. (John Roson)

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