Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte orders boosting of defenses in disputed territory, ‘not militarizing it’

April 10, 2017 2:58 pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the 120th anniversary ceremony of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio camp, in the capital, , April 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered reinforcements in South China Sea territory disputed with regional power China, reassuring Beijing, however, that he is not “militarizing” the region.
Duterte said on Monday that he had ordered the military to reinforce defenses on areas in the sea that are controlled by Manila but said his government would not place any “offensive weapons” there.
He said Manila was trying to maintain the geopolitical balance in the region as well as peace and friendship with Beijing.
China claims most of the sea, including waters and rocks close to the shores of neighbors, and has been building artificial islands and installing military equipment on them, including on some reefs in the Spratly chain, which are also claimed by Manila.
Philippine defense and military officials also said on Friday that they would upgrade existing facilities on the islands but not occupy new territories.
Duterte previously raised alarm when he said last week that Manila had to occupy the uninhabited islands that the Philippines claims. “We must build bunkers there or houses and make provisions for habitation.” He even threatened to go to a disputed island himself and raise his country’s flag on it.
His Monday pronouncements, while still meant to assert Manila’s stance, were, however, less inflammatory and clearly meant to assuage potential Chinese concerns.
The South China Sea, through which more than five trillion dollars in global trade passes every year, is also contested by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
Skip to toolbar
shared on