MALACAÑANG yesterday insisted that “it can never be too late” to bring up Manila’s arbitration victory against China over the South China Sea, as it defended anew President Rodrigo Duterte’s soft stance towards Beijing on the territorial dispute.
“We will have to leave it to the President’s judgment… He has 6 years,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing yesterday.
“It can never be too late when you protest a particular thing, especially when the award is yours.”
Panelo also downplayed the effect of Chinese activities in the disputed sea and its man-made islands there on the arbitration award, which he said “will be there forever.”
Panelo said this when asked to react on Beijing’s admission that it has started operating a maritime observation center, a meteorological observatory and a national environmental and air quality monitoring station on its man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The South China Morning Post said the marine observation centers are located at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
The Philippine government will only lodge a diplomatic protest with China if proven that Beijing has opened three weather observation stations on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, Malacañang said yesterday.
Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post earlier reported that China’s weather observation stations are located on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs.
The observation facilities would be used for military purposes and to ensure navigational safety in the South China Sea, according to the report, quoting Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
“We have to get a confirmation of that since that is merely a news report,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang.
Panelo added the Department of Foreign Affairs will file the necessary protest once the information on the weather stations has been validated.