By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines must “act fast” in occupying its islands in the South China Sea before it loses them to other claimants, President Duterte declared last Saturday, April 15.
The President shared his government’s plans to assert ownership of Philippine territories in the disputed sea during the Philippine-Qatar business forum in Doha, Qatar.
“With the movement of people there occupying the lands, I ordered my military to occupy the remaining 10 islands which are not inhabited, place our flag there, and put some structures,” Duterte said in his remarks.
“I claim these islands as property of the Philippines. It’s because everybody is grabbing every land there in the South China Sea so if we do not act fast, we will end up with nothing,” he added.
The President earlier ordered government troops to occupy and fortify the islands in the Kalayaan Group of Islands to further cement the country’s ownership.
After China expressed concern over the latest move, Duterte assured that no weapon system will be installed in its planned occupation of the islands. “We are just there to claim the island for us because that is really ours,” he said.
The President, meantime, warned other nations against intruding into Philippine-owned Benham Rise, which he has renamed as the “Philippine Ridge.”