The government will take appropriate action if the reported establishment of Chinese weather observation stations in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) is validated, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.
In a statement, the DFA said that coordination with other concerned Philippine government agencies is now ongoing for proper action.
“The department is coordinating with concerned agencies of the Philippine government and with the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to verify the reported establishment of these facilities,” DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said in a statement.
A South China Morning Post report said China has installed weather stations on the disputed Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Zamora (Subi) and Panganiban (Mischief) Reefs.
“The department will take the appropriate action should these reports be validated,” he added.
The DFA was reacting to news reports quoting officials of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that weather observation stations were established on three features in the WPS.
The three areas are among the territories being claimed by the Philippines under the Kalayaan Islands Group or the Spratlys but currently occupied by China.
Apart from the Philippines and China, other countries claiming areas in the West Philippine Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Malacañang took it a step further by saying a necessary diplomatic protest will be undertaken by the DFA if the report is true.
“Certainly, the DFA will do its work and make the necessary diplomatic protest,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“These are news reports. We have not validated that. But if they are validated, I’m sure the new Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Teodoro Locsin) will do his job,” Panelo said.
“We will have to ask the DFA Secretary. I would not want to preempt,” he added.
Asked about the international arbitration’s ruling on WPS, Panelo said it would be up to Duterte to decide if he will assert the Philippines’ victory when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Manila this month.
“We’ll have to leave it to the President’s judgment on when and where the perfect time would be made. He has six years within which to do it,” he said.
On 12 July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court Arbitration (PCA) released its decision, nullifying China’s nine-dash line map which covers nearly the whole of WPS.
Many options open
China had rejected the ruling, prompting Duterte to shelve it for now to allow peaceful and friendly dialogues that eventually revived China-Philippines relations. Duterte, however, said he would assert the PCA’s verdict before his six-year term ends 2022.
Panelo said he believes it would not be too late for the Philippines to assert “because the arbitrational award will be there forever.”