Mr Duterte’s warning followed China’s increased presence around Pag-asa island, also known as Thitu. The island has reportedly been swarmed by hundreds of Chinese vessels. Mr Duterte said at a press conference: “I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you that lay off the Pag-asa because I have soldiers there.
“If you touch it, that’s another story.
“Then I will tell my soldiers ‘prepare for suicide missions’.”
The Philippines President has previously kept China as a close ally in the hope to attract trade and investment.
But he has called on the Chinese ships’ presence an “illegal” violation of Philippine sovereignty.
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The country’s warning to China has reportedly strengthened the Philippine’s alliance with the US who are fighting to push back China’s hold on the disputed waters.
Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten Philippine sovereignty, security and therefore economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States.
“As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defence obligations under Article 4 of our mutual defence treaty.”
The US Navy and participated in drills alongside the Philippines to practice recapturing small islands seized by a hypothetical foreign military force.
In the exercises, the US also tested a new application for its amphibious assault ships.
The waters are the world’s busiest trade route is also claimed by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei.
So far, the US has conducted 15 freedom of navigation operations in the area since 2015.
The US also want allies to consider similar manoeuvres.