Lorenzana, NTF-WPS no longer allowed to talk, issue statements on sea row with China
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) can no longer talk about or issue statements on the country’s maritime row with China based on the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This as presidential spokesperson Harry Roque asserted Tuesday that only he and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. can talk about the issue when asked if Duterte’s order on the matter means the defense chief and NTF-WPS should not discuss the sea dispute anymore.
“The instruction of the President was clear. Only the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and myself can speak on the issue now,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
Roque pointed out that reports of the NTF-WPS are being forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) which would determine if it merits the filing of a diplomatic protest.
These reports, he added, are also covered by executive privilege and the traditional exemption to the freedom of information.
“These are matters, facts, which are relevant to diplomatic communication covered by executive privilege. Although there is transparency, an exception to transparency is diplomatic communication which also includes inputs which become the basis of diplomatic communication,” Roque said.
“It’s covered by executive privilege because we need to allow the executive branch to make the correct decision no matter what,” he added.
Duterte earlier ordered his Cabinet that discussions on the West Philippine Sea issues would be done internally and that only one person would be tasked to speak about it.
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