DFA: Up to Duterte to raise Chinese weather stations in 33rd ASEAN summit

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 9) — Disputes in the South China Sea, including China's weather monitoring stations in the Spratlys, may likely be discussed in the upcoming 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit next week.

The Department or Foreign Affairs on Friday said these are among issues that President Duterte may raise during the ASEAN+3 meeting between leaders of the ten Southeast Asian members plus China, Japan, and Korea.

Duterte will be in Singapore for the summit on November 12-15.

"As you know, the Philippines has assumed the coordinatorship of the ASEAN-China Dialogue partnership from this year until 2021, that's for a period of three years," Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said during a pre-departure briefing for the 33rd ASEAN Summit.

She says it will be up to the President if he will discuss Beijing's recent announcement that it has begun operating weather monitoring stations on the Spratly Islands.

"We are quite sure that the South China Sea, as I've mentioned before, would be one of those regional developments that would be taken up in the summit. As to the detail of the discussions, I cannot say," West said.

A number of leaders are apparently requesting a bilateral meeting with Duterte.

But since arrangements are still being made, West refused to say which particular countries or whether China is one of them.

The President has been criticized in the past for his soft stance on the maritime dispute. During the Philippines' chairmanship of the 30th ASEAN Summit in April 2017, the outcome statement on the disputes took it easy on China by avoiding tacit references to its supposed militarization of man-made islands.

Last November 1, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang confirmed China is now operating a maritime observation center, a meteorogical observatory and a national environment and air quality monitoring stations in the Spratlys.

Despite the announcement, Malacañang said these would still have to be validated.

It added that the Philippine government will file a diplomatic protest if it gets official confirmation about the weather stations .