Duterte stops building of PH shelters in South China Sea — Defense chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered to stop building shelters on a sandbar in the disputed South China Sea, the Defense chief said.

Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a forum on Wednesday revealed Chinese and Filipino nationals had an incident near Pag-asa Island last August.

"We tried to put some structures on one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted," Lorenzana said. "The President came to know about this, and he said that, 'Let's pull out.'"

Lorenzana said troops went over the sandbar to build nipa huts for fishermen to take shelter in.

His statement comes a day after Duterte said he'll be "frank" with China on addressing issues in the region.

READ: Duterte says he'll be 'frank' with China on addressing issues in Asia

In an ambush interview, Lorenzana clarified there was no stand off.

"Hindi naman diplomatic standoff, hindi naman. There was just a complaint," he said.

Lorenzana said Beijing raised that both countries should not be building structures under existing agreements between its foreign ministers.

"They complained that we are occupying a new feature," Lorenzana said.

This prompted Philippine and Chinese officials to discuss protocols for ground commanders to settle these concerns, Lorenzana said.

In August, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said his military sources have spotted Chinese vessels stationed near the Pag-asa Island. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said the presence of ships alone does not mean anything.

READ: Alejano: Chinese vessels seen near Pag-asa islands

The Asian Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI) in the same month showed land reclamation in areas of the South China Sea contested by China and Vietnam.

READ: Land reclamation photos show areas contested by China, Vietnam - Palace

Supreme Court Associate Justice Carpio also issued a statement in August said Chinese vessels are blocking Filipino fishermen in Sandy Cay, a sandbar just over 2.5 nautical miles west of Pag-asa Island.

This disappearing feature, Carpio said, has become permanently above water at high tide because of China's dredging in the nearby Subi Reef.

Carpio, who has been vocal about the maritime row, has urged the Duterte administration to protest the presence of Chinese ships.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.