Philippines begins construction near Beijing’s manmade islands in disputed S. China Sea

The Philippines has started upgrading military facilities on the biggest features it occupies in the disputed South China Sea, the defense secretary said on Tuesday. Delfin Lorenzana said a contractor was building a beach ramp on Thitu Island, locally known as Pag-asa (hope), the largest of nine features the Philippines holds in the Spratly islands, Reuters reports. The construction is expected to be completed by early 2018, as Manila asserts claims in the strategic waterway. China claims almost the entire South China Sea. However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waterway where more than $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year.