MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte did not order government troops to stop patrols in the disputed South China Sea, his special assistant, Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go, said Sunday.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano claimed Saturday that Duterte issued the halt directive, but that the military was not in favor of the order and and compromised with the Palace to limit its patrols to the strategic waterway to once a month.
“The president will not order that. First of all, what’s ours is ours. We will patrol in those areas,” Go said in a business gathering in Manila, as quoted by a statement from his office.
The military and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque have also denied Alejano's allegation.
Beijing has installed an array of airstrips, radar systems and naval facilities on a string of islands it has reclaimed in contested areas in the South China Sea since 2013.
Last May, China deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands off the Philippine coast, CNBC reported, citing sources close to US intelligence.
A recent report also said the Chinese coast guard had bullied Filipino boatmen fishing at the Scarborough Shoal.
Manila has been taking "diplomatic actions" against China, including filing protests, over the latter's activities in the South China Sea, officials said last week.
A Hague-based tribunal in 2016 invalidated China's sweeping claims in the disputed waters, adding that both Manila and Beijing have traditional fishing rights at the Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippine government under the Duterte administration had downplayed the ruling as the President continued to pursue closer ties with China.
The 2 sides have been engaged in dialogue in hopes of peacefully resolving the dispute.
With a report from Agence France-Presse