By Jim Gomez
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2; 8:36 a.m.) — China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said yesterday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors' friendlier ties.
Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.
The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country's territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.
A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China "is concerned that we will build" structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.
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