Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday rejected the claim of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the Philippines has lost Sandy Cay, one of the three sandbars near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, to China.
“It’s not true. It’s still there. Nobody is occupying it. It’s within the sight of Pag-asa Island. It’s too close to Pag-asa and they are not occupied by anybody,” he told reporters when asked on whether the Philippines has lost Sandy Cay to China.
Early this week, Carpio said that Sandy Cay was “seized” by China from the Philippines during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Western Command reported in late March that Chinese militia vessels stay close to the “vicinity of the sandbars” near Pag-asa “to sustain their assertive presence.”
Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo said in February that Chinese vessels are driving Filipino fishermen away whenever they get near the sandbars.
The Philippine military tried to build shelters for fishermen in Sandy Cay in 2017 but it was stopped after China protested it, citing an agreement not to occupy new features.
Since then, the Philippines has lost control over Sandy Cay and China has effectively controlled the area, former Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said last year.