Philippine officials have opened a kindergarten for the small Filipino community living on the Spratly Islands, but deny that it is a move of aggression to lay claims on the chain of islands in the South China Sea, Asahi Shimbun reports.
The school is situated on a 37-hectare (91-acre) island, the largest of the chain, called “Pag-asa” in the Philippines, which means “hope”. It has five students. Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. of Kalayaan town, Palawan, in the Visayas region, expects that the school will accommodate more students, and attract those who currently attend school on the mainland, by seeking more government funding, according to AP.
The Philippines, along with Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and China claim the island, which is potentially rich in oil and gas resources, on different grounds. China claims most of the South China Sea, including the Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines also claims.
The island of Pag-asa has been under the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan since 1978 after the government encouraged families to live on the island and offered compensation for their basic needs, recently including education.