President Rodrigo Duterte's needs Chinese financing to build the US$4 billion Mindanao Railway. Photo: Reuters/Wu Hong

President Rodrigo Duterte announced last week that he would raise the Philippine flag on the disputed island of Thitu and fortify it with barracks. The move came as a surprise amid Duterte’s continued pivot to closer ties with China, and ruffled feathers in Beijing, as expected.

To no one’s surprise, Duterte acquiesced to Beijing’s request that he cancel the trip, saying that “because we value [China’s] friendship I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag. He added that China warned him “there will likely be trouble,” in the event of such a move.