Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders troops to South China Sea reefs

April 6, 2017 11:25 am

Philippine President (Photo by AFP)

Philippine President Rodrigo
Duterte on Thursday ordered Filipino troops to deploy on unoccupied
South Sea islands and reefs claimed by Manila, in a move that
could provoke rival claimants including Beijing.

In a
surprise announcement, Duterte told reporters he has ordered soldiers to
build structures on Philippine-claimed islands and reefs in the
strategically located Spratly archipelago.
“I have ordered the
armed forces to occupy all,” he said during a visit to a military camp
on the western Philippine island of Palawan, the largest land mass close
to the Spratly group.
“Erect structures there and raise the
Philippine flag,” he said, adding Manila was claiming “nine or 10”
Spratly islands, reefs or cays.
China claims most of the sea,
including waters and rocks close to the shores of neighbors and has been
building artificial islands and installing weapons on them, including
on some reefs in the Spratly chain that are also claimed by Manila.
“It
looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we
better live on those that are still vacant,” Duterte said.
“At least, let us get what is ours now and make a strong point there that it is ours,” he added.
Duterte also said he plans to visit Thitu on Independence Day in June.
Thitu
is close to Subi Reef, one of seven man-made islands in the Spratly
that China is accused of militarizing with surface-to-air missiles,
among other armaments.

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