Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that he plans to visit the Thitu Island - an island that Philippines claims in the disputed the South China Sea, fortify it with barracks and raise the Philippine flag.
"We have to maintain our jurisdiction over South China Sea...I have ordered the Armed Forces to occupy all, lagyan ng structures at Philippine flag," said the Filipino leader, as reported by abs-cbn.com.
The Reuters states that Duterte is planning his visit on Thitu's Independence Day in June. However, this comes as a direct challenge to China's sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea – an issue which has kept the Asian superpower hostile for quite some time now.
Manila has been at loggerhead with Beijing over the control of some territories of South China Sea. China claims most of the region, through which more than $5 trillion of trade happens annually, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims.
An arbitration court in July ruled that China's vast claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis. The court criticized Beijing's environmental destruction in the disputed area.
The ruling infuriated China and it refused to accept the verdict. Philippines, which filed the arbitration case, requested China to accept the ruling a number of times but Beijing called the Philippines' claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea "baseless" and an "act of bad faith".
In September 2016, China said that the ties with Philippines are at a turning point, adding that it expects Manila to handle the conflicts appropriately. "At present, China-Philippine relations are at a new turning point... China hopes the Philippines side can meet China halfway, appropriately handle disputes and push relations back onto the track of dialogue, consultation and friendly cooperation," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin to a delegation from a Philippines foreign affairs committee in Beijing.