Beijing … has befriended the Philippines over the past year but only after years of diplomatic hostility that some Filipinos fear could resurface.

“I imagine there’s a feeling that the time has come to consider other options,” said Jonathan Spangler, director, South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “I just think it’s more like a hedging thing, like making sure you don’t go all the way in one direction.”

The Philippines can help lock in its Spratly claims by showing human habitation and economic activity, Spangler noted.