THERE is no need to tighten security over the disputed Pag-asa (Thitu) Island at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) since the Philippines has not monitored security threats from China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday.
“When you say tighten security, you are expecting somebody will attack you. No one has been attacking us there,” Lorenzana told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“There is no threat. So, as far as we are concerned, that Pag-asa incident is already in the past, it was already dealt with,” Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana referred to his visit at Pag-asa Island in April when Chinese fishing boats and vessels were spotted.
He said that tightened security would not be needed since the tension between China and the Philippines had “decreased” after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office and visited Beijing.
It was also agreed upon by the two countries that there would be no installation of new features over the nearby islands of Pag-asa based on an agreement between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Lorenzana said.
Pag-asa is part of the Kalayaan (Spratly) Group of Islands, which the Philippines has laid claim to.
Besides Pag-asa, the Philippines has also staked its claim on eight other islands and reefs: Kota (Loaita) Island, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island.
Lorenzana said that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the withdrawal of troops from Pag-asa.
He said that it was the DFA, which relayed China’s opposition to the occupation of Philippine forces over Sandy Cay.
Pag-asa Island is 12 nautical miles off the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Department of National Defense (DND) said it would sign a contract with Luzviminda Engineering to construct a beaching ramp on the sand bars of Pag-asa Islands.
Code of Conduct to benefit Filipinos
At the same time, Lorenzana said that China’s agreement to be part of a binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea would be “productive” for the Philippines, as he believed in China’s “sincerity.”
“The President also believes that they (China) are also sincere and we are pursuing that together with other claimants [of the South China Sea],” Lorenzana noted.
There are five other claimants of the disputed territories: Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China and the Philippines.
Lorenzana said the CoC would also benefit the Philippines, as well as other claimant countries.
“Our benefit is there will be no miscalculation, misunderstanding. Our fishermen will get unlimited access and the same time, we are going to continue developing our islands under our countrol,” he said.