Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islands
and shoals it claims in the disputed South China Sea, asserting Philippine sovereignty in an apparent change of tack likely to anger China.
The firebrand leader, who on the campaign trail joked that he would jet ski to a Chinese man-made island in the South China Sea to reinforce Manila's claim, also said he may visit a Philippine-controlled island to raise the national flag.
"The unoccupied, which are ours, let's live on it," Duterte told reporters during a visit to a military base in Palawan, near the disputed waters.
"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."
China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam contest all or parts of the South China Sea. This has led to confrontations between China and some of its neighbors over the strategic trade route.