Philippines pulled out soldiers from a sandbar at Pagasa Island in August
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government troops to pull out from one of the sandbars near the Pagasa Island last August, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at a forum Wednesday.
Lorenzana said the pull out of troops was ordered by the president last August, because both China and Philippine have agreed not to occupy new features in West Philippine Sea.
“It was explained to him (Duterte) by the foreign affairs secretary ( Alan Peter Cayetano) that we had an agreement not to occupy new structures. So the president said (if that’s the case), let's pull out,” he said.
“There was an agreement between our foreign secretary and (his Chinese counterpart), they agreed that there will (be) status quo. There should be no occupation of new feature. So when the sandbar came out, they considered ( it) new feature so that’s okay. That’s right. They are correct also in saying that’s a new feature so since we agree not to occupy new feature, we should not occupy,” Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana said the soldiers were supposed to set up shelter for the Filipino fishermen in the sandbars but they were taken out after the Chinese complained.
“They complained that we are occupying a new feature… Actually we brought people there to occupy the, not to occupy, to put structures for our fishermen,” he said.
“This is a new feature, this came up, cropped up from the sea, so it is, it is a, it is define, it suits the definition of a new feature. and since we have an agreement that nobody should occupy new features, they will not occupy it, but we try to, some of our fishermen would like to establish a shelter there, they (Chinese) saw it and they complain, so we had to pull out,” Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana said the sandbar area where the fishermen's shelter was supposed to be set up is about 2.5 nautical miles from Pagasa Island.
“Maybe it’s around 500 square meters, it is small,” he said referring to the sandbar.
Lorenzana also clarified that the construction of a beaching ramp in Pagasa Island has not begun.
"I thought they already started the construction but what happened is that it was not pushed through, first because of bad weather. The sea there is very choppy… Second is the contract... We had a new contract… the cost is much bigger, so we have to renegotiate the contract.. and it has just been approved and the money was made available recently,” he said.
“So my expectation that they will construct the beaching ramp sometime this year is not yet done. We will start maybe when the waters become calmer… (maybe) by January up to May. Then we will continue with that. So now nothing is happening there,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS