MANILA -- There are no Chinese ships blockading Sandy Cay and other sandbars owned by the Philippines in the Kalayaan Island Group.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the sidelines of the ASEAN Leadership Amid A New World Order at the Makati Shangri-La Wednesday.

"I think the word guarding is not the correct term eh, kasi yung mga nandun mga fishermen nila eh. Yung ating nagpupunta din dun, na malapit lang nag-dock, was also a fishing boat from Navotas na malaki. Na-nireklamo nila. Pero sabi namin, meron din naman din kayong barko diyan sa malapit. Na-naka-standby, uh, nagpi-fishing din yun, so fishing, so they are not actually guarding," he added.

(I think the word guarding is not the correct term because fishermen were there. Our fishermen are also there. It was a big fishing boat from Navotas which docked somewhere nearby. They complained about it. But we said they also have ships nearby which are on standby. They are fishing, not actually guarding.) 

This after he admitted the Philippines stopped construction of fishermen shelters in Sandy Cay, which is 2.5 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island after China protested the move claiming the activity involves the setting of facilities in a "new feature".

"The background is like this, there was an agreement between our Foreign Secretary saka sila, yung ano nila, that there will, status quo lang muna. walang occupation ng new feature. (There was an agreement between our Foreign Secretary and with them that everything will be in status quo for the meantime. There will be no occupation of a new feature.) So nung lumabas yung sandbar na yun inokupa natin, (So when the sandbar came out which we have occupied) they considered it new feature," the DND chief pointed out.

Lorenzana also admitted that the Philippines brought in troops to build the shelters which are only "nipa huts". He estimates that the sandbar only measures around 500 square meters.

The order to stop construction came from President Rodrigo Duterte last August, the DND chief added.

Lorenzana also disclosed that no Chinese ships arrived and told Filipino troops to stay away, adding that the matter was handled through diplomatic channels. (PNA)