President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte has ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islands and shoals it claims in the South China Sea which will likely ignite anger with China. “The unoccupied, which are ours, let’s live on it,” Duterte said to reporters during a military base visit in Palawan close to disputed waters. “It looks like everyone is making a grab for the islands there. So we better live on those that are still unoccupied. What’s ours now, we claim it and make a strong point from there.”
Many countries such as Malaysia, China, Taiwan, etc. have confronted one another over the South China Sea as it is a strategic trade route.
The U.S. State department has urged the countries involved to lower tensions and resolve their issues between one another in accordance with international law. In October 2016, Duterte had announced his “detachment” from the United States as he realigned with China as the two previously agreed to resolve the South China Sea dispute through talks. Following a tribunal, the ruling declared Beijing had no historic rights to the South China Sea as it marked a reversal in foreign policy.
Currently the Philippines harbors nine islands or reefs in the South China Sea which include a World War II transport ship that ran on the Second Thomas Shoal in the late 1990s. Delfin Lorenzana, Defense Minister anticipates that the Philippines will strengthen its facilities in the Spratlys by building a new port and an existing rough airstrip.