Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin warned that China may occupy Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) if the Philippines leaves it unguarded.

“Pagka hindi mo tinauhan ‘yung lugar na ‘yun, ang [gagawin] nila occupancy, nandudun sila, so ‘yun ang gagawin nilang basis nung kanilang claim,” Gazmin told defense reporters in a phone conference Thursday.

The defense chief said it was necessary for the country to send the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ vessels back to Panatag.

“Bakit nga hindi at hindi naman umaalis ‘yung mga Intsik dun, kailangang balikan natin,” he said.

On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III said the country should send ships back to Panatag should Chinese law enforcement vessels remain in the area.

The President ordered the Coast Guard and BFAR ships to return to port last Friday because of bad weather brought by typhoon “Butchoy.” (John Roson)

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