U.S. to conduct more patrols in South China Sea

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Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Beijing is protesting the presence of U.S. warship USS Lassen in the South China Sea.

A Reuters report said the U.S. Navy vessel has sailed within 12 nautical miles off Subi Reef, which China has expanded into an artificial island in the past year.

The Philippines has been protesting China's construction activities in the Spratly Islands, which both countries claim. Subi Reef is part of the disputed Spratly group.

The report added that a Chinese guided-missile destroyer and a naval patrol ship shadowed and gave warnings to the U.S. warship.

The Foreign Ministry of China said the U.S. warship has illegally entered Chinese territory.

Related: China says it warned and tracked U.S. warship in South China Sea

Subi Reef is just around 12 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island, the biggest island in the Spratlys occupied and controlled by the Philippines.

For Manila, there is nothing wrong with the U.S. move. The Department of National Defense said it would contribute to stability in the area.

"If there's continuous freedom of flight and navigation in the area, then siyempre that makes the whole area as stable as it can be," DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said on Wednesday (October 28).

Related: President Aquino welcomes U.S. presence in South China Sea

Patrols not for PH maritime claims - analyst

Defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio said that sending warships is the way of the U.S. to protect freedom of navigation in one of the busiest sea trade routes in the world.

He warned, however, that this should not be regarded as a form of help from the U.S. to boost the Philippines' claim in the South China Sea.

"Remember that the U.S. does not take sides in the territorial dispute. So, what the U.S. is doing is a freedom of navigation patrol. It is to ensure that all players establish freedom of navigation that the U.S. is advocating," he said.

"So the Philippines must not misread this and think that this is the U.S. coming in to assist us against China."

Custodio said that, with China distracted by U.S. presence in the South China Sea, the Philippines should take advantage of the situation and improve the country's facilities on Pag-asa Island.

The government needs to build a seaport on the island, so materials can be brought in to rehabilitate the badly deteriorated runway of the airport there.

A 2002 document signed by claimants in the South China Sea prohibits destabilizing activities, including occupation of areas in the disputed waters.

"We do not expect the United States to defend our fishermen if China's maritime surveillance ships water cannon them. Don't expect them to be the ones supplying Ayungin Shoal, Pag-asa, and so on and so forth. Those are things that the Philippines should do if it wants to engage in the grown up business of territorial defense," Custodio said.

Reports have it that the US will increase its patrols in the South China Sea.

Custodio said this does not change the fact that China will remain in the area to secure its claims.

He insisted that the Philippines should step up efforts to do the same — before it's too late.