Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 20:54 GMT
Trouble brews on Mischief Reef
The Spratly Islands: Tiny but strategically important
The Philippines is to seek international help to resolve a growing dispute with China over a chain of tiny islands.
Concern is growing in the Philippines about China's intentions after building work was started on the aptly named Mischief Reef.
China says it is constructing a shelter for fishermen. Manila says the site is a military installation and that it represents a military encroachment of its territory.
They agreed the battle with China should continue to be fought on two diplomatic fronts - through dialogue with China and with international help.
In seeking a solution, Mr Estrada took advice from former presidents Corazon Acquino and Fidel Ramos.
The council identified the Spratly dispute as one of its two "most urgent security concerns" - the other being attacks by Muslim separatist rebels in the southern island of Mindanao.
Six countries have some claim, in whole or in part, to the Spratly islands.
Some are so small there is barely enough room for one person to stand on dry land at high tide.
But because they are dispersed so widely across thousands of kilometres of the South China Sea they command control of strategically important sea lanes and access to rich fishing grounds.
It is also believed that they lie above massive reserves of oil and natural gas, though estimates of their potential value vary considerably.