The features include Thitu island, the biggest and most strategically important in the South China Sea. Known locally as Pag-asa, Thitu lies about 480km west of the Philippine province of Palawan.
The military wants to bring a desalination machine for troops living aboard a warship that the Philippines deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert its sovereignty claim, he said.
Brawner said Thitu and Nanshan islands were among those where facilities would be improved with the installation of desalination machines and communications equipment.
“We are just trying to make it more liveable, more habitable for our soldiers because they really have poor living conditions,” he told reporters.
The plan, however, did not include “fortifying the Sierra Madre”, Brawner said, referring to the crumbling World War II-vintage ship grounded on Second Thomas Shoal by the Philippine Navy in 1999 to assert the country’s territorial claims.
Besides the Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, a conduit for goods in excess of US$3 trillion every year.
Also included in the military’s modernisation plans is the acquisition of more ships, radars and aircraft as the Philippines shifts its focus to territorial from internal defence, Brawner said.