MALACAÑANG ON Monday said it will confirm the South China Morning Post report that Beijing has opened weather station facilities on its artificial islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea, and, if proven true, the Philippine government is ready to “make necessary diplomatic protest.”
The Palace also said that it is not yet too late for the government to assert the arbitral ruling on the disputed waters in favor of the Philippines even if President Rodrigo R. Duterte is already halfway through his six-year term.
Mr. Duterte has been pursuing friendly ties with China and a stronger economic relationship.
The international court’s ruling, arising from a case filed by the Philippine government in 2013, was released on July 12, 2016, just over a week into the start of Mr. Duterte’s administration.
The weather station facilities, according to the SCMP’s report, are located on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), Subi Reef (Zamora Reef), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef).
“We have to get confirmation of that since that is merely a news report,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a press briefing.
He added, “Certainly, the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) will do its work and make the necessary diplomatic protest.”
The DFA, in a statement, confirmed that it “has monitored news reports quoting officials of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that weather observation stations have been established on three features in the West Philippine Sea.”
“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. The Department will take the appropriate action should these reports be validated,” it said.
As for the President’s plan to assert the arbitral ruling, his spokesman said, “We’ll have to leave it with the President’s judgment on when and where the perfect time would be made. He has six years within which to do it. So as you said, we’re still only coming in the half of his term.»
Asked if it is not too late, he said: “I do not think so because the arbitrational award will be there forever…. It can never too late when you protest on a particular thing, especially when the award is yours.” — Arjay L. Balinbin