Malacañang on Thursday denied claims that a Chinese flag has been planted on a sandbar near Philippine-controlled Kota Island in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Quoting a “very reliable source,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said there was no Chinese flag on the sandbar, a Philippine territory.
“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 news conference.
“But it seems that the place, in itself, is subject to many passers-through and, in fact, there are [pieces of]evidence of people who do park there. 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,” he said.
Abella issued the statement after Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the Chinese flag mounted on a steel pipe was discovered near Kota Island around the third week of July.
“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,” Alejano said in a statement.
He called on government officials, particularly those in the Department of Foreign Affairs, to be transparent on issues regarding disputed waters in the South China Sea.
“While the Philippines is pursuing bilateral engagements with China, the government has the responsibility to inform the public [by]providing appropriate and careful information meant for public consumption,” Alejano said.
“The Filipino people are entitled to know to make sure that Philippine national interests are not set aside. Besides being an issue of territorial integrity, it also has immediate security and economic implications, which definitely mean something to our fellow Filipinos living in the area,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had assured lawmakers that the department will inform the public if there is a cause of concern or alarm over the situation in the South China Sea.
“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,” he said.