MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday the defense department has yet to receive an official report on the Chinese Coast Guard ship reportedly spotted in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“We haven’t received the official report so we’re trying to get from Wescom (Western Command), requiring them to send the report to us. I cannot comment on that yet,” Lorenzana said.
Wescom earlier said they spotted the Chinese ship at the small group of islets and reefs, where a handful of Philippine Marines stand guard on a grounded World War II-era ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.
Presence of China's Coast Guard in the vicinity was a normal occurrence before 2016, when the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed waters.
Lorenzana said he prefers waiting for the report before deciding what to do.
“Previously before the President became President, there was a lot of Chinese vessels there in varying configurations. Coast Guard, fishing boats, and militias. We will wait for the official report to validate it," Lorenzana said.
"Then we will think of what our response will be.”
Earlier, Lorenzana flagged the passage of Chinese ships without clearance at the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi.
On Tuesday, Malacañang said government would be requiring foreign vessels to get clearance first before passing through Philippine waters.