- The Chinese government has expressed concern over Duterte’s order to occupy uninhabited islands in the West Philippine Sea
- Earlier, Duterte ordered the military to build structures on these islands
- He also wanted the Philippine flag raised in the area
MANILA, Philippines – China said it is ‘concerned’ about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest order for the military to occupy uninhabited islands and shoals in the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.
Early this week, Duterte called for the occupation of these islands during a press briefing while visiting Camp Artemio Ricarte in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
“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,” Duterte told reporters.
But China said it is committed to defending its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and safeguarding peace and stability in the region.
“The overall situation in the South China Sea is getting better. This has not come easily and deserves to be cherished and preserved by all parties” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a statement on Friday, April 7.
“Having noted the report, the Chinese side is concerned about it. We hope the Philippine side will continue to properly manage maritime disputes with China and work with us to maintain the sound and steady growth of China-Philippines relations,” the Chinese official added.
Among Duterte’s orders to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is to build structures as well as raise the Philippine flag on the islands covered under the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The President added that he wants to celebrate the Philippine Independence Day in June on one of these islands.