President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in a press briefing allayed the fears of a Chinese invasion in the Philippine held territory , just 2.5 nautical miles west of Pag asa island- Sandy Cay.
The President’s statement is the confirmation that there are Chinese vessels in the disputed waters as claimed by Opposition Magdalo representative Gary Alejano last week.
Sandy Cay is a sandbar located 4.6 kilometers west of Pag-asa Island, which is 505 kilometers west of Palawan.
|Photo presented by Magdalo representative Gary Alejano, were Chinese registered vessels are spotted just 2 to 5 nautical miles away from Philippine held territory Pag-asa island. (photo credit to Magdalo)|
"Di naman totoo yung sinasabi ni Carpio”
"They are just there, but they are not claiming anything. I have that assurance na hindi 'yan sila mag-occupy anything [I have that assurance that they will not occupy anything]," he added.
The President said that Chinese vessels in the area are free to enter the waters of Sandy Cay.
"Free for all 'yan [It's free for all]," he said. "Free for all because it's claimed by them. It's claimed by us."
The President also denied reports of Filipino fishermen allegedly were being blocked in their fishing grounds by the Chinese, adding that the Philippine Navy is escorting the local fishing vessels.
Just this weekend Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Antonio Carpio urged the Dutete government to protest the reported presence of Chinese ships near Philippine occupied territory Pag-asa island in the West Philippine Sea.
The Supreme Court Justice called on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to alert the Philippine Navy (PN) so they can send navy ships to the area.
"The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China," the SC Justice said in a statement. .
"If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay, and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty," Carpio added.
Justice Carpio also claims that Chinese vessels are blocking Filipino fishermen in Sandy Cay, just over 2.5 nautical miles west of Pag-Asa.
"Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized (to put it mildly), or being invaded (to put it frankly), by China," Justice Carpio said.
"If China acquires sovereignty over Sandy Cay, it can now claim Subi Reef as part of the territorial sea of Sandy Cay, legitimizing China's claim over Subi Reef and removing Subi Reef from the continental shelf of the Philippines," Justice Carpio said.
If China successfully occupies Sandy Cay, Carpio said it would be tantamount to reducing by a third or more the territorial sea of Pag-asa.
"It will also prevent the Philippines from extending the territorial sea of Pagasa to include Subi Reef. By any yardstick, this is seizure of Philippine territory," the Justice said.
He called it "worse than what happened in Scarborough Shoal," where China is reportedly planning to build environmental monitoring stations. .
Opposition congressman and Magdalo representative Gary Alejano alerted the media last week that based from his sources “inside the military” tat since Aug. 12 China has deployed two frigates, one coast guard vessel, and two large fishing vessels along with militia, stationed two to five nautical miles away from Pag-asa Island.
DFA Sec. Cayetano did not confirm or deny Alejano’s claims, but said the "presence of ships alone does not mean anything."
"Nagrereklamo pa rin tayo [We are still protesting], it's just that we don't announce it and we don't tell you how we do it." said Cayetano in answer to the calls of filing a diplomatic protest against the chinese.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) already tasked the Western Command (Wescom) to verify the reports.
Washington based think tank – Asian Maritime Transparency (AMTI) posted last Aug. 13 photos of the Chinese flotilla near Philippine occupied Pag-asa island.
"On that day, there were nine Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels visible near Thitu, with others possibly under cloud cover," the AMTI said in its website
"It could be claimed that these ships are all operating within the territorial sea of both Thitu and the sand cay(s) with which Subi is associated," it added. .
It also reported sightings of a Philippine fishing boat docked at a sandbar, "possibly sent out from Thitu to investigate the Chinese presence."
reports from CNN philippines