Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 6) — Malacañang said it will await confirmation on reports that China has set up weather stations on areas in the South China Sea and assured that the government will take action if this is proven true.
“The government will undertake appropriate actions once these reports are properly validated,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.
Panelo said the foreign affairs department is currently coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to verify the reported setting up of the weather stations.
“It is currently coordinating with concerned government agencies, as well as with the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to verify the existence or non-existence of these alleged facilities,” he said.
Panelo earlier addressed this concern on Monday saying Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin jr. will “do his job” once the reports have been verified.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang announced on November 1 that Beijing has already begun operating weather stations on the artificial islands in South China Sea.
“These projects are designed to observe the maritime, hydrological, meteorological conditions and air qualities, and provide such services as maritime warning and forecast, tsunami alert, weather forecast, air quality forecast, and disaster prevention and relief,” Lu Kang said in a press conference.
He said China aims “to improve civil services and provide public goods and services to countries in this region.”
Weather services and militarization
The establishment of weather stations over areas in the South China Sea comes amid an ongoing territorial dispute with the Philippines.
China has repeatedly received backlash from neighboring countries over its alleged militarization of features in the contested waters that it turned into artificial islands.
In a text message to CNN Philippines, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said allowing China to operate weather stations there may ultimately lead to the country’s acceptance of China’s overall claim on the islands.
“Unless PH protests and makes clear (its) position against such move and offer of public goods, PH may be deemed to accept (China’s) civilian and military control of (South China Sea),” he said.