By Alexis Romero
MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. yesterday denied that China has occupied the Sandy Cay off Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea and stressed that the government would not give up an inch of the areas claimed by the Philippines.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday bared that China has virtually occupied Sandy Cay, an area situated around 2.5 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
Two frigates, a Chinese coast guard vessel and two military fishing boats were reportedly seen in the area.
Carpio urged the Duterte administration to “vigorously protest” what he described as an “invasion” of Philippine territory by China.
Esperon admitted that foreign fishing boats were seen in the Sandy Cay, but denied that China has seized the Sandy Cay.
“China has not seized sand bars in Pagasa Atoll,” Esperon said in a text message.
“There should be no alarm on that as long as they don’t occupy any of the sandbars. There are many Chinese as well as Vietnamese fishing boats in and near Pagasa Island and its nearby sandbars, collectively called Pagasa Atoll,” he added.
Esperon said the Chinese ships came “too near” the Sandy Cay but did not seize it. He also maintained that the government would continue to assert the country’s maritime claims.
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