Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a vast lagoon in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea a maritime sanctuary, prohibiting both the Philippines and China from fishing in the area.
Although some analysts have warned about a possible backfire from Beijing over the decision, it seems that Duterte had the approval of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. An official source has said both leaders discussed the issue as they met at the APEC summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima at the weekend.
However, the shoal and its fish-rich lagoon measuring nearly 60 square miles is at the center of a long-running territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing, with China forcing Philippine fishing boats out in 2012.
In July, an international court ruled against China, saying it violated the rights of the Philippines by banning them from fishing. But China ignored the ruling, which also invalidated its right to most of the South China Sea.
The controversial leader has referenced everyone from Pope Francis to Barack Obama in insulting terms and has repeatedly threatened to distance his country from the U.S. in an attempt to strengthen relations with China and Russia in particular.
The Philippines has for years been an ally of the United States in Southeast Asia, a sensitive zone for Washington in that it includes rising superpower China.
The Chinese government has yet to comment on the latest proposal.