The US Navy sent two warships to a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea on May 28 in its latest symbolic protest against China's claims there.
Officials at the Pentagon have long criticized China's actions in the disputed islands, claiming the Chinese government has not been open about its military build-up and has been using the islands to gather intelligence, Reuters reported.
The Foreign Affairs secretary also denied that the Duterte administration has not been acting on the issues in the West Philippine Sea, saying that the government had filed 50 to 100 diplomatic protests against China, but are opting not to publicize these.
REFUTING domestic criticism that of its soft stance on China's militarisation of the South China Sea, the Philippines said it was prepared to go to war with the country if any of its military personnel are harmed in the disputed waters.
"The Philippine government continuously monitors the actions of the various claimants in the SCS/WPS (South China Sea/West Philippine Sea)".
"We are now working hard for a framework that would not go against the Constitution for the exploration of natural resources".
The ruling, however, was promulgated when Duterte was already president.
"The critics want us to announce it loudly and to confront China each and every time to the media".
US officials say the freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) are regularly scheduled and occur globally.
China should also not attempt to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin [Second Thomas] Shoal, where the government grounded it in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago, he added.
Plus, the sea is a major global trade link - commodities from Africa and West Asia travel through South China Sea en route to China, Japan and South Korea. Weeks earlier, USA intelligence announced there was a high possibility Beijing had deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as part of military exercises.
Five lighthouses on five islands in the Spratlys - Pag-asa Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island and Patag (Flat) Island - will be built, Esperon said.
Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would push back against what it sees as China's militarization of islands in the South China Sea despite China's condemnation of a voyage through the region on the weekend by two US Navy ships.
Manila is pursuing a joint exploration agreement with Beijing for oil and pure gasoline reserves of their claimed territory within the South China Sea.
Beijing has been building artificial islands to reinforce its claim over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, despite protests from Southeast Asian countries.
Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.
However, Mattis's statements, taken as an indirect response to Beijing, argues that Beijing is the one who is in violation of worldwide law, as United Nations tribunals have on repeated occasions ruled against territorial claims of what China calls the cow's tongue or the nine-dash line, a presumptuous assertion that the entire South China Sea is Chinese territory.
U.S. Navy Adm. Philip Davidson will take over PACOM from Adm. Harry Harris during the change of command on Wednesday.
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