This photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of part of mischief reef in the disputed Spratly islands on April 21, 2017. Beijing has recently begun the operations of a maritime observation center, a meteorological observatory and a national environmental and air quality monitoring station on its outposts in the Spraty Islands.
AFP/Ted Aljibe, File
Palace downplays weather stations in Spratlys despite Beijing's confirmation
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - November 5, 2018 - 12:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has dismissed Beijing's operation of weather monitoring stations on its artificial islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea as "merely a news report" but the Chinese government itself already confirmed this.

"We have to get confirmation of that since that is merely a news report," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a news briefing Monday.

On November 1, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published a report titled "Beijing opens weather stations on artificial islands in South China Sea."

The report quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang confirming that Beijing has started operating a maritime observation center, a meteorological observatory and a national environmental and air quality monitoring station on the Spratly Islands.

"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 said in a press briefing last week.

The SCMP report indicated that the weather stations are located on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs, which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

Asked if the recent developments in the contested waters should be a cause for alarm, the Malacañang spokesman said the Department of Foreign Affairs would make the necessary diplomatic actions if confirmed.

"Again, these are news reports. We have not validated it but if they are validated, I'm sure that the new Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Teddy Locsin) will do his job," Panelo said.

Insisting that its constructions on the reefs and islands in the Spratly Islands are meant to improve civil services, Beijing stressed that its installations on the artificial islands "is also a solemn pledge China has made to countries in the region and to the international community."

"The projects kicked off this time will provide more public services to countries in the region and more effectively safeguard the security of navigation in the South China Sea and the production and life of the people of littoral countries," Lu said.

This would not be the first time that the Philippine government would issue a statement that it has yet to verify China's activities in the South China Sea despite the latter's confirmation.

In May, it was reported that China has installed anti-cruise ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles on its "big three" islands in the Spratly Islands.

Beijing confirmed the deployment of weapons but then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippine government is still verifying the reports.

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque then admitted that the government does not have the technology to verify Beijing's deployment of missiles.

The Philippines is waiting for the delivery of such technology, Roque said in May.

When asked for an update on the technology that would allow the country to verify such reports firsthand, Panelo said he would have to ask the Department of National Defense and the National Security Adviser "and then we will release a statement."

CHINA PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES SALVADOR PANELO SOUTH CHINA SEA SPRATLY ISLANDS WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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