PH to protest China weather stations, if reports are true – Panelo
MANILA – Malacañang said that if it gets official confirma on about China building weather sta ons in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines would file a diploma c protest.
Yesterday, Presiden al Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was asked about the Palace's response to news reports quo ng a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman as saying Beijing has installed weather sta ons in some Spratlys islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Panelo said the Philippines has not received official confirma on of what he described as "merely a news report." But if the report is "validated," he said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) would file a protest.
"Certainly, the DFA will do its work and make the necessary diplomatic protest," he said during a press briefing.
"Again, these are news reports. We have not validated that. But if they are validated, I'm sure the new secretary of foreign affairs will do his job," Panelo added.
Asked again about the expected protest, Panelo said he did not want to "preempt" the DFA.
However, the DFA's definition of a diplomatic protest includes verbal reminders and even statements uttered by President Rodrigo Duterte in public speeches, at least under the leadership of Alan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano has since been replaced by new foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Though Panelo dismissed the reports, they quoted a Chinese official, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, speaking during a press conference. Lu's remarks are in the official transcript of the Chinese Foreign Ministry itself.
Lu said China has been operating weather stations in three artificial islands built upon Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), Subi Reef (Zamora Reef), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), all of which are within the West Philippine Sea.
A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Arbitration Court in the Hague invalidated China's claim to features in the West Philippine Sea and declared that Beijing violated the Philippines' sovereignty when it built artificial islands out of these features.
The announcement about the weather stations comes weeks before Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Manila.
Duterte has oen said he would assert the Hague ruling before Xi at the "right me." Asked if it is already too late to do that, given China's incursions, Panelo said, "It can never be too late when you protest on a par cular thing, especially when the award is yours."
Duterte is reaching his third year in office in June 2019, but has so far not used the Hague ruling to assert the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea.
"We'll have to leave it with the President's judgment on when and where the perfect me would be made," said Panelo.
The new weather sta ons, however, are only among at least 1,600 reported structures built by China in the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands as of May this year.
China has also been militarizing the islands, which has prompted condemna on from Southeast Asian countries, the United States, and Australia, among others.
This is an aerial photograph of Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), where China has built a weather station.