Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano on Tuesday claimed Chinese vessels barred a Philippine government ship from going to Pagasa Island and have deployed vessels one to three nautical miles north of the contested territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“I received information from my sources in the military, stating that since thrree days ago, China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel, and two large fishing vessels, with their maritime militia, 1-3 nautical miles north of Pagasa Island,” Alejano, a former marine captain, said in a statement.

“Further, the report said, two days ago a Philippine government ship from BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from going near our sandbars located generally west of Pagasa Island, around 2-7 miles away,” he added.

Sought for comment, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday said it had yet to receive reports about the supposed presence of Chinese vessels near Pagasa Island, which is called Thitu Island by Beijing.

“We have not received any official reports of this from the Department of National Defense or other Philippine security agencies,” said spokesman Robespierre Bolivar.

Alejano urged the government to file a diplomatic protest.

“This must be taken seriously by the Philippine government and call the attention of China to order their ships away from Pagasa Island and file appropriate diplomatic protest against China. I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China,” Alejano said.

Manila won an arbitration case against Beijing on the dispute in a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands last year. But China, whose claims to most of South China Sea were invalidated, refuses to recognize the ruling.

Foreign policy briefing

Also on Tuesday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was briefed on the government’s foreign policy direction and legislative agenda for the 17th Congress’ second regular session.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano quoted President Rodrigo Duterte in explaining the administration’s foreign policy: “We will observe and insist on the time-honored principle of sovereign equality, non-interference, and commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes to best serve our people and protect the interest of our country. It does not offend anybody but it sends a message that we have a right to pursue an independent foreign policy without interference.”

Isabela Rep. Ana Cristina Siquian Go, the committee head, vowed to ensure that the committee’s legislative priorities would be in line with those of the administration’s.

“We are here to provide all the assistance we can to give the Executive, and I am hoping that constructive working relationship we have built with the DFA will continue to flourish so we can expedite the passage of measures that fall under our jurisdiction,” Go said.