Esperon: PH can have own weather station in Pagasa

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the Philippines should just build its own weather station in the Pagasa Island, following reports that China has began operating weather stations in the disputed Spratly Islands.

"Our troops can use them if we have our own weather station in Pagasa [Island,]" Esperon told CNN Philippines in a text message Friday.

He has said that having weather stations in the Spratlys would benefit the government's civilian operations.

"That gives better capability for our troops to plan their movements there for civilian purposes," Esperon said.

The Chinese foreign ministry announced last month that Beijing had begun operating weather stations on artificial islands in the South China Sea, specifically Nansha Islands or what are locally known as the Spratlys.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said China's construction in disputed waters are meant to provide "public goods and services" to countries in the region.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the government could not confirm this.

Esperon echoed this, but added that the government "will take steps" to verify the reports.

"I will not tell you how to do it. We will have the equipment soon," he said.

Beijing and Manila, along with four other countries, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea. China has refused to observe a 2016 international tribunal ruling recognizing the Philippines' claims.

Despite China's announcement on the new structures in areas the Philippines claims, President Rodrigo Duterte did not bring the matter up at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China Summit in November.

Maritime experts have raised concern that letting China operate the controversial weather stations would lead to the Philippines' acceptance of the Asian giant's claim on the islands.

But Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin Jr. downplayed the issue, saying that the weather stations are not China's claims of sovereignty.

CNN Philippines Multi-platform Writer Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.