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Philippines To Occupy & Fortify Spratly Islands It Holds
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Old 04-06-2017, 06:35 AM
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Default Philippines To Occupy & Fortify Spratly Islands It Holds






Philippines To Occupy & Fortify Spratly Islands It Holds




Taken through the window of a closed aircraft, shows Pag-asa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands,
in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines.

(AP Photo/Rolex Dela Pena, Pool, File)

Apr. 6, 2017 6:20 AM EDT

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he has ordered the military to occupy and fortify all Philippine-held islands in the disputed South China Sea to assert the country's claims amid what he says is a race to control territory in the area.

"We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control," he said during a visit to a military camp in western Palawan province.

Duterte said he has ordered the armed forces to occupy and place Philippine flags on all islands, reefs and shoals controlled by the Philippines.

"There are about nine or 10 islands there, we have to fortify," he said. "I must build bunkers there or houses and provisions for habitation."

Duterte said he may visit one of the islands, Pag-asa, to plant a Philippine flag on Independence Day. Money has been budgeted to repair the runway on Pag-asa, home to a small fishing community and Filipino troops, he added.

Since taking office in June, Duterte has worked to mend ties with China that were strained under his predecessor over the territorial disputes.

An impeachment complaint has been filed against him that cites, among other things, his alleged failure to protest China's territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

Rival claimants, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have expressed alarm over Beijing's building of artificial islands in the disputed region.

"It looks like there's a race to grab islands," Duterte said. "What is ours now, we should get and make a strong point that it is ours."

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