BEIJING (Sputnik) — On Thursday, Duterte reportedly said he ordered the deployment of military forces onto nine Philippines-claimed islands and reefs in the South China Sea and announced his intention to raise the Philippines' flag on Pagasa Island in the Spratly island chain.
"We express our concern in this regard. We hope that the Philippines will continue to handle maritime disputes with China properly," Hua told the regular press conference.
The region of the South China Sea has been the site of several territorial disputes between a number of countries. In particular, China, the Philippines and Vietnam. The Spratly Islands, also known as the Nansha Islands, are contested by Beijing, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Taipei.
In July 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of Manila after it challenged Beijing's claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. However, China refused to recognize the tribunal's ruling.