Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the country is incapable of verifying the presence of three weather stations that China installed in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
“We don’t have the capabilities. We don’t have the same aircraft that the United States Navy uses—the Poseidon. Same also with the Australians. What we have right now is really weak, we don’t really have the equipment,” he told reporters Tuesday, shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at the Palace to begin his two-day state visit.
The Defense chief said the administration was trying to upgrade its military defenses and tapping the resources of other countries such as Japan, Korea, and the United States.
He said the country could acquire used submarines for training before buying a brand new one.
Three weeks ago, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced that Beijing has started the operations of a maritime observation center, a meteorological observatory, a national environmental and air quality morning station in artificial islands in the 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,” the South China Morning Post quoted the Chinese diplomat as saying.
According to Lu, China aims “to improve civil services and provide public goods and services” to countries in the region.
Asked to comment on the stations, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told reporters they should fly over the disputed area and verify the presence of the Chinese facilities themselves.
Lorenzana, on the other hand, said until they are verified to be otherwise the government assumes the stations are “just for civilian use.”
The installation and operations of Chinese facilities in the contested waterways came after Duterte’s call for Southeast Asian leaders to practice self-restraint over the disputed waters.
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