South China Sea row intensified after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippines’ military to occupy and fortify islands in the South China Sea amid ongoing territorial disputes between China and other countries in the region. China exerts its claim on most parts of the South China Sea while Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan dispute such claims. Competing claims include,
• Indonesia, China, and Taiwan over waters NE of the Natuna Islands.
• The Philippines, China, and Taiwan over Scarborough Shoal.
• Vietnam, China, and Taiwan over waters west of the Spratly Islands. Some or all of the islands themselves are also disputed between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
• The Paracel Islands are disputed between the PRC/ROC and Vietnam.
• Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam over areas in the Gulf of Thailand.
• Singapore and Malaysia along the Strait of Johore and the Strait of Singapore.
Duterte told journalists at a press briefing that following his visit to a military base located in the Philippines western Palawan province, “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….We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control…… There are about nine or 10 islands there, we have to fortify……I must build bunkers there or houses and provisions for habitation.”
The defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed that President Duterte’s order by saying, “The president wants facilities built such as barracks for the men, water [desalination] and sewage disposal systems, power generators (conventional and renewable), lighthouses, and shelters for fishermen…”
The reactions from other countries including China are yet to emerge in response to this Duterte land grab.