Panelo tells Del Rosario: ‘We are now trying to fix your mess’
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo hit back at former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, saying the Duterte administration was now “trying to fix his mess” after the Philippines lost possession of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.
Panelo issued the statement after Del Rosario slammed his “mindless” remarks on Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, turned the tables and said it was Del Rosario who was “mindless.”
“What is mindless is when one makes reckless statements under the guise of pretended patriotism on unverified reports of intrusion or harassment, or performs actions that could provoke an armed retaliation,” he said.
Panelo had earlier rebuked Del Rosario, saying it was during his term as foreign affairs secretary that the Philippines lost its possession of the Scarborough Shoal.
Del Rosario had responded to this, claiming the United States has brokered an agreement for the Philippines and China to simultaneously withdraw ships from the Scarborough Shoal during the 2012 standoff.
However, he said, China did not withdraw its ships.
But Panelo said “there is no proof that the United States has brokered an agreement for the Philippines and China to withdraw their respective vessels during the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012.’
“Even if there was such brokering, Mr. Del Rosario’s ordering the withdrawal of Philippine vessel or vessels without the knowledge and consent of former President Aquino demonstrated his inexperience and naïveté in the art of psychological warfare,” he said.
“By such horrendous mistake we lost Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese under Mr. Del Rosario’s watch. We are now trying to fix his mess, and no amount of justification from him could justify his monumental blunder,” he added.
On Wednesday, Del Rosario in a statement hit Panelo for saying the Duterte administration “never shelved the arbitral tribunal” which “only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it.”
One of the key figures in the Philippines’s arbitration victory against China, Del Rosario said “our presidential spokesperson appears to be in surrender without lifting a finger to peacefully defend what is ours.”
In a statement, Panelo said: “The Palace reiterates that there was no shelving of the arbitral ruling. Our position has been consistent in that there is no system of enforcing the arbitral ruling. The International Tribunal has no armed component to enforce its decision in the event that the losing state refuses to recognise the judgement.”
“Any armed enforcement of the arbitral could provoke bloody hostilities between the two countries. Bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflicting claims is the better and circumspect option than unnecessarily risking the lives of our soldiers,” he added.
He also said “the President’s previous statements that he would not in the meantime raise the issue of the arbitral ruling as he discusses trade relations is not shelving the judgement.”
“By repeatedly making such statements,” he said, Duterte “in fact puts China on notice that such issue remains and a sword of Damocles hanging over its head.”
“The President believes, and rightly so, that the best way to resolve this maritime dispute is through peaceful and diplomatic negotiations with China, a mode that avoids a violent confrontation to resolve international disputes,” he pointed out.
“Adopting such universally accepted dispute resolution relative to the present conflict is not an act of weakness nor is it deemed to be abandonment or shelving of the arbitration ruling in our favor,” Panelo added. /kga