PH did not lose sandbars near Pag-asa island, says Lorenzana
MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied that the Philippines lost its sandbars near Pag-asa (Thitu) island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to China.
"Nothing is lost there because nobody is occupying Sandy Cay. Nobody," Lorenzana said on Thursday, June 7.
"It's still ours....We did not lose [maritime territory]. Nobody has lost anything," Lorenzana said.
Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said he believed the Philippines has lost Sandy Cay after the military aborted its planned construction work there last year. (READ: Duterte admin lost territory in the West PH Sea – Del Rosario)
The sandbars are located between Pag-asa Island and China-occupied Subi Reef.
Lorenzana claimed Filipino residents on Pag-asa Island continue to enjoy access to the 3 sandbars. "Yes, they can go there on day trips. Punta ka doon, maligo ka (Go there, take a swim), then come back. Basta (Just) no occupation," Lorenzana said.
The Philippine military attempted to build huts in Sandy Cay for fishermen but stopped construction work in November 2017 following protests from China.
Lorenzana said the government was forced to abort construction because of an agreement with China that both countries will not occupy new areas. Filipinos living on Pag-asa Island have traditionally visited the sandbars.
"We already have the aggreement – by Secretary Cayetano and the Chinese minister of foreign affairs – that there will no more occupation of new features. Even if it is connected to Pag-asa, since we have an agrement, we have to respect the agreement," said Lorenzana. – Rappler.com