MALACAÑANG on Tuesday downplayed reports about China’s supposed plan to “take back” Pag-asa island in the disputed Spratlys, dismissing them as, at the very least, “unverified.”
In separate text messages to The Manila Times, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that talks about the planned “invasion” of Pagasa island came from unofficial sources.
“We are confirming with DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] if that is accurate. DFA is still verifying the accuracy of the report,” Lacierda said.
Coloma also reserved comment until the reports have been verified.
Lacierda even quoted Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez’s earlier statement that the department would not comment on “articles that have unnamed and unofficial sources.”
The officials were reacting to a Chinese news network’s story that the mainland was hatching a plot to seize this year Pag-asa Island, which is now a municipality in the province of Palawan.
Qianzhan (Prospects), a business and strategy news platform in Mandarin that was translated by English news site China Daily Mail, ran a story titled “Chinese troops will seize Pag-asa Island, which is called by China Zhongye, back from the Philippines in 2014.”
The report also lashed at Manila’s “arrogance” for announcing early this month that it will increase naval and air presence at the disputed island.
Citing Chinese “experts,” the report said that the Chinese Navy “has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea.”
“The battle is aimed at recovery of the island stolen by the Philippines from China,” the report said.
But the article maintained that “there will be no invasion into Filipino territories.”
It was further reported that the “invasion” plan could be part of the 20-year expansion plan of the Chinese navy that began when Chinese troops occupied Panganiban (Mischief) Reef 14 years ago.
Two years ago, Chinese vessels encircled and stayed at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is just more than 200 nautical miles from Zambales.