Pag-asa (the Filipino word for hope) is the largest island in Kalayaan, a group of islands that is part of the disputed Spratly island chain in the West Philippine Sea. The Spratly islands are claimed wholly or partly by China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines. In 1978, the Philippines established the municipality of Kalayaan, formally claiming the island group as its territory; a community, including a small military presence, has since set down roots on Pag-asa.
Not many people know that the Kalayaan group of islands, which is part of the disputed Spratly island chain, is not all that barren and desolate and is in fact inhabited—by Filipinos. Its largest island, Pag-asa, is home to about 200 Filipinos, and has been under the Philippine government’s control since the 1970s. The town is administered by the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan, about 527 kilometers (285 nautical miles) west of it.
Predictably, China has again engaged in saber-rattling and warned the Philippines against the latter’s decision to open a public kindergarten on Pag-asa in the Kalayaan island chain off the province of Palawan. Hong Lei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said that Beijing “opposes any illegal activity that may infringe on China’s sovereignty,” according to the [...]