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Philippines to send troops to South China Sea island

By Elizabeth Shim
Philippines to send troops to South China Sea island
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is sending more troops to a Philippine-claimed island in the South China Sea. File Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA

May 12 (UPI) -- A South China Sea island that is one of the largest in the Spratly chain is receiving military reinforcements from the Philippines.

Senior Philippine military officials told the Philippine News Agency that facilities on Pagasa Island are getting upgrades and more troops.

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The announcement comes more than a week after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte suggested he and other ASEAN leaders are pulling back from the South China Sea dispute with Beijing.

"We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Even the Americans were not able to stop them," Duterte said.

But at a time when the United States may be curtailing operations in the South China Sea, claimants like the Philippines may be taking matters into their own hands, CNN reported.

The latest military announcement comes after Duterte ordered the army to occupy all Philippines-claimed islands in the South China Sea.

The move may anger Beijing, where Duterte is scheduled to meet with officials Saturday at an economic forum on China's global infrastructure initiative, known as the One Belt, One Road project.

The reinforcements on Pagasa Island may not bring the Philippines in direct confrontation with China.

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The island has been under Philippine occupation for decades and is home to a small civilian population.

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