MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte aborted plans by the Philippine military to construct artisanal facilities on one of the sandbars near Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island following a protest from China.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed this while addressing an ASEAN Leadership forum in Makati on Wednesday, November 8, which was attended by representatives of country ambassadors and representatives of think tanks and the academe.
Lorenzana said that in August, the Philippine military brought construction materials to one of the sandbars to build a nipa hut that could serve as shelter for Filipino fishermen there.
Duterte ordered the military to pull out following a “standoff” that heightened tensions, after China lodged the complaint, Lorenzana said in his speech.
“There was a standoff in Pag-asa a couple of months back. We tried to put some structures in one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted…..The President said, ‘Let’s pull out,'” the defense chief said. (READ: Duterte: Why should I defend West PH Sea sandbar?)
In an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the forum, Lorenzana explained, “We brought people there to put structures for our fishermen…. They (Chinese) complained that we are occupying a new feature.”
DFA’s agreement with China
Lorenzana said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) agreed with China’s position that construction on the sandbars near Pag-asa will violate a modus vivendi agreement between the two countries not to build on new features.