DFA chief taunts media: Go, fly over China stations
“I don’t even know if there are weather stations. Apparently, media knows (sic) about it, but nobody else seems to,” Locsin said in a press conference during the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit here in Singapore. Asked if the Duterte administration has made efforts “to at least verify” the reported installations, Locsin said the media will have to ask Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. READ: DFA probing China weather stations in WPS “But I believe you should first verify it yourselves,” he said. “If you heard that, it’s very easy to just fly over it. Don’t you have that capability? I mean that’s a story. That’s only my view, we can’t respond to something that just pops up in the Internet. Have you seen it? Apparently, it can be done by media,” said the DFA chief, a former TV host, and journalist. Last week, the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing has started operating a maritime observation center, a meteorological observatory, a national environmental and an air quality monitoring 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,” SCMP quoted an official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying in a press conference. He said that China aims “to improve civil services and provide public goods and services to countries in this region.” In response, Locsin said, he doesn’t understand what the media wanted him to do. “Oh wow. There it is. You take their word for it then? Right? You do? I don’t get it. What do you want us to do? You mean, China announced it has put up weather stations? Fine, okay. And then?” he said. He then said he didn’t think the weather stations were claims of ownership. “There it is. Weather stations. I don’t think they’re claims of ownership, they’re claims of sovereignty. They’re weather stations. I’d have to ask, you know I’ll ask the military later what they feel about it,” he said, dismissing them as “a non-issue.” “You guys claim there is a weather station out there. I suggest you guys fly there. Why not? That’s what I’ll tell you. That’s what I did as a journalist. When there was a conflict in Mindanao, I took my team into the battlefield on the way to Abubakar. That’s how we did it in the old days,” he said. Locsin, who was the permanent Philippine Representative to the United Nations, also dismissed the idea of filing a diplomatic protest. “When I was in the UN, they would keep asking me to file notes verbales. I said no, I call that notes verbiage,” he said. “Every time you send a note verbale and no one responds to it, what does that look like? When you keep sending those notes—I know some people say, just keep on sending them—what I keep calling it is banging your head against the wall,” Locsin said. Responding to critics who accuse the Duterte administration of failing to assert the country’s rights, Locsin said the Philippines is “absolutely not giving up” its rights over the contested waters. “I have repeatedly said not an inch, not an iota of sovereignty. I keep saying it. I said it also in the UN,” he said. “The critics are saying, if you don’t repeatedly assert it, you’re giving it up. They don’t know their law. I’m sorry, you know, not everyone went to a good school,” said Locsin, who finished his master of laws degree from Harvard University. Locsin said that while China did not react to the President’s call for self-restraint in the disputed waters, it did favor the push for a code of conduct to govern disputes in the area.