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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 22)The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday said it has ordered the military to increase its presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in the wake of “monitored Chinese activities close to Pag-asa Island.

The department has issued the directive to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after it was recently confirmed that several Chinese militia and fishing vessels remain anchored near the Philippine-occupied island that Manila considers as part of Palawan province, but which Beijing contests. 

The DND’s statement also came a couple of days after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed alarm over China’s alleged reclamation activities in unoccupied features of the Spratly Islands, as reported by Bloomberg.

he DFA said the government will verify this information — which Beijing dismissed as “fake news.”

“Any encroachment in the West Philippine Sea or reclamation on the features therein is a threat to the security of Pag-asa Island, which is part of Philippine sovereign territory,” the DND said. “It also endangers the marine environment, and undermines the stability of the region.”

In a separate statement, the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) said it has observed the “persistent presence” of Chinese militia vessels around areas named in the Bloomberg article, namely Pag-asa Cay 1 (also known as Sandy Cay), Julian Felipe Reef (also known as Whitsun Reef), and Panata Island (also known as Lankiam Cay).

It said all activities and development in those areas are reported to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea for an appropriate response.(Click here to read more,of%20%22monitored%20Chinese%20activities%20close%20to%20Pag-asa%20Island.%22)