Malacañang has denied the claim of an opposition lawmaker that China has planted its flag on a sand cay seven nautical miles off a Philippine-controlled island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Citing a “very reliable source,” Palace Spokesperson Ernesto Abella affirmed that no Chinese flag has been mounted near Kota Island, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group.
“According to the source that I referred to, there was none, there was no flag ring that time… I inquired about that and apparently, as of this stage, there is no flag,” Abella told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday, August 24.
But the Palace official confirmed that there is civilian presence in the waters, pointing out that the area was “subject to many passers-through.”
“In fact, there [is evidence] of people who do park there,” Abella added. “And many, but these are not military but mainly these are citizens who maybe, but this is not verified, mainly, these are citizens and not white or gray ships.”
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano previously claimed that a three-meter Chinese flag has been planted on a sand cay located seven nautical miles northeast off Kota Island in July.
“According to the information that I received, a Chinese flag mounted on a steel pipe was discovered planted on a sand cay located seven nautical miles northeast of Kota Island. It was discovered around [the] third week of July 2017,” the lawmaker revealed in a statement.
Alejano went on to say, “A Chinese vessel allegedly erected the said three-meter high Chinese flag on a sand cay which is known to be within a Philippine-controlled area.”
In a recent statement, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano assured that the department will inform the public if there is a cause of concern or alarm over the situation in the South China Sea.
The top diplomat also maintained that the current administration remains firm and will not give up an inch of the country’s territory.
“So let me assure [that] despite the lack of details that we give you, we will tell you if there is an alarming situation, or if the public is in danger, or if we are going to take or step up certain actions that need the public’s support or knowledge,” Cayetano said.