Palace says Manila didn’t lose territory to China under Duterte

THE PHILIPPINES did not lose new territories to China during the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, pursuant to an agreement between the two to keep the status quo, according to the presidential palace.

China did not reclaim islands, reefs and other sea features under Mr. Duterte’s leadership, his spokesperson Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.

The Philippines did lose Scarborough Shoal to China under his predecessor Benigno S.C. Aquino III, he added.

“What’s important is the deal between the President and President Xi for a status quo did not change,” Mr. Roque said in Filipino. “There were no new reclamations and they did not get new territories and we didn’t lose any.”

“As of now, the agreement holds. That is the legacy of the Duterte administration.”

Mr. Duterte has blamed his predecessor for ordering the withdrawal of a Philippine Navy ship from the disputed area.

Mr. Roque also belied retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s claim that China seized a sand bar just two nautical miles from Thitu Island near Palawan province in 2017.

The Philippines abandoned a plan to set up structures at Sandy Cay, while China did not try to seize it from the Southeast Asian nation, he said.

Mr. Roque also downplayed the presence of Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, which the country calls Juan Felipe. Geospatial intelligence firm Simularity earlier told the ABS-CBN News Channel more than five Chinese ships had been spotted at the reef as of May 3.

“I repeat, the fishing boats at Julian Felipe are too far from us,” Mr. Roque said.

A Philippine task force earlier said more than 200 Chinese ships had been scattered in waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

About 15 vessels either manned by Chinese militia, the People’s Liberation Army Navy or the Chinese Coast Guard had also been spotted at Scarborough Shoal. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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