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Esperon says no seizure by China of Pag-asa Island sand bar: Chinese came too near but didn’t occupy

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National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has assured that China has not seized the Sandy Cay, a sand bar near Pag-asa Island, despite the reported presence of Chinese ships in the area.

“The Chinese came too near, but did not occupy it,” Esperon said in a statement Sunday (August 20).

He said there are many vessels in the area, such as fishing boats by the Chinese, Filipinos and Vietnamese; ships of the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard.

Esperon made the statement after Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio urged the government to protest against the reported presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island.

Carpio also asked President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to send navy ships in the area where the Chinese vessels were reportedly sighted.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” he said in a statement.

“If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay, and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty,” Carpio added.

Esperon maintained that the country is not giving up on Sandy Cay even though it is claimed by China as its own.

“We claim that Pag-asa is part of the Kalayaan municipality. China claims it to be part of theier territory inside the nine-dash line. Therefore the area remains as a disputed area,” he said.