Palace: PH to protest China weather stations in Spratlys if validated
The Philippine government will only file a diplomatic protest against China if it proves that it has opened weather observation stations on its artificial outposts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Monday that the operation of weather monitoring stations in the Spratly Islands was “merely a news report” although the Chinese government already confirmed this.
“We have to get confirmation on that since that is merely a news report,” Panelo told reporters.
The South China Morning Post reported last week that China had started the operations of its weather observation stations in three of its biggest artificial islands in the Spratlys — Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Zamora (Subi) and Panganiban (Mischief) Reefs.
The news report of the confirmation of China’s new developments in the Spratly Islands quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. A copy of the transcript is also available on his agency’s website.
“These are news reports; we have not validated it. But if they are validated, I’m sure the new Secretary of Foreign Affairs will do his job,” Panelo added.
Asked if the government will object to this development once they have confirmed the information, he said: “Certainly, DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) will do its work and make the necessary diplomatic process.”
It was not the first time that the Philippine government appeared clueless on China’s deployments on the Spratly Islands.
When news of China’s deployment of missile systems in the Spratlys was reported in May, then-presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines has no technology to verify the report independently.
Maritime expert Dr. Jay Batongbacal said the new weather stations mark China’s latest move to make it appear that its militarized outposts in the disputed waters were providers of “public goods.”
“By shifting back to the ‘public goods’ narrative, China is attempting to draw attention from its continued enhancement of military facilities on its features in the South China Sea, and trying to court smaller Southeast Asian states by casting the US and external powers as military troublemakers while China is a good international citizen offering public goods,” he told INQUIRER.net.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said he would reserve his comments until he receives “definitive information” from their intelligence units evaluating the weather stations.
China insists that the facilities on its man-made islands in the Spratlys are primarily for civilian purposes, despite reports about its deployment of military planes and surface-to-air missiles on the islands earlier this year.
Analysts say that the missile shelters, runways, ports, aircraft hangars on the islands make it clear that islands are military installations and not for civilian use. /ee
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