MANILA — The Philippine military is considering developing the disputed Spratly islands into a tourist destination, local news reported Saturday.

Military chief General Hermogenes Esperon was quoted in the Philippine Star as saying that the army would help bring tourists to the white sands and pristine waters of Pag-Asa Island, the largest of the islands in the South China Sea occupied by Filipino forces.

Rosendo Mantes, mayor of Pag-Asa, the Philippine town established on the island, was quoted as saying the area has good diving sites, many of which are still unexplored.

Although the area still lacks the usual amenities such as resorts and hotels, the military hopes to attract people seeking to get close to nature.

Esperon said a navy ship could take tourists to the islands but did not specify how such tours would be arranged.

The Spratlys, a chain of islands and atolls — believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits — are claimed in full or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. All but Brunei have troops posted on some of the islands.