MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy all islands of the Philippines in the South China Sea to strengthen the country's claims.
"We have to maintain our jurisdiction over South China Sea," Duterte told reporters in Palawan.
Duterte said he has ordered the military to build structures and raise the Philippine flag in islands that belong to the country.
"I have ordered the Armed Forces to occupy all, lagyan ng structures at Philippine flag," he said.
Duterte added that he plans to visit Pag-asa (Thitu) Island on Independence Day, June 12, to raise the Philippine flag there.
"Sa coming Independence Day natin. I might I may go to Pag-asa island to raise the Philippine flag there," he said.
"Basta yung bakante na atin na tirhan na natin mukhang agawan kasi ito ng isla eh," he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last month said the President has ordered for the repair of facilities in Pag-asa island.
"May kautusan ang presidente (Rodrigo Duterte), na sa Pag-asa Island, (dapat) pagandahin ang facilities. Priority project in the next months is the repair of our runway in Pag-asa, so we can go there anytime," said Lorenzana during the commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the Western Command.
Manila is involved in an arbitration dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.
Last year, The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim and declared that Beijing had violated Manila’s rights to fish and explore for resources in the disputed waters.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre told reporters last month that Manila would file a complaint against Beijing's plan to install a radar station on Scarborough Shoal.
China five years ago started blockading the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), a rocky outcrop within the Philippines' 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and the United States has warned Beijing against carrying out the land reclamation work there. --with a report from Reuters