Enrile urges gov’t not to deploy lone warship beyond Scarborough Shoal | Inquirer News

Enrile urges gov’t not to deploy lone warship beyond Scarborough Shoal

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 09:16 PM June 19, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile cautioned the government, on Sunday, against further agitating China by deploying the country’s only warship beyond Philippine waters.

Enrile agreed, with some reservations, with the deployment of BRP Rajah Humabon to the Scarborough Shoal, and said the government should not go beyond this.

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“At least we’re showing that while we’re a tiny nation in terms of military capability, we’ve decided to defend our right. But it’s better not to (go beyond that) because it might worsen the situation. If they call the posture, they can sink our destroyer with one torpedo, one missile,’’ he said over dzBB.

Since this could no longer be recalled, the government should ensure that Humabon conduct its patrols within the country’s economic zone and not stray into disputed waters, Enrile said.

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Otherwise, he said, the warship, which would not be covered by an Air Force aircraft, would come face to face with China’s submarine, missile gunboat and long-range missiles “capable of hitting any target.’’

“That’s a symbolic act of the country to show that in our own way we will defend our rights. Let’s not go any farther because we have no capability to equalize the balance of forces,’’ he said.

The only World War II-era still in active service, the Humabon was dispatched to patrol the waters off Zambales after China sent Haixun 31, a helicopter-equipped 3,000-ton maritime patrol ship, on a voyage that would see it passing through the West Philippine Sea.

The 1,300-ton Humabon destroyer was acquired in December 1978 and commissioned by the Philippine Navy in February 1980. It is the Philippines’ only warship.

The deployment came on the heels of exchanges between China and the Philippines over incursions by Chinese aircraft into Philippine territory near the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

Sen. Edgardo Angara called the deployment of Humabon to Scarborough Shoal “pitiful’’ and pressed the government to instead form a team of international law experts to articulate the country’s position on Spratlys and avoid a repeat of the country’s loss of Sabah to Malaysia.

“Of course that helps. That’s our only available vessel. But in a sense, we’re sending a water basin (palanggana) against China’s modern destroyer, carrier,’’ he said over dzBB. “It’s a pitiful sight.’’

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Scarborough Shoal lies about 220 kilometers from Zambales, 350 km from Manila and more than 800 km from Hong Kong.

The best preparation would be to strengthen the government’s legal and diplomatic position by forming a team of legal, foreign policy and international law experts to defend the country’s position on Spratlys with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the United Nations, Angara said.

“We should learn from the lessons of Sabah. When we went to negotiations, we had not formulated our position. No expert studied and prepared for that,’’ he said, referring to Philippine claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo. “We should form a legal team of policy experts, including international law experts, to study that and prepare to debate it,’’ Sabah was incorporated into Malaysia in 1963.

Enrile said President Aquino should now convene the National Security Council to tackle the issue of Spratlys.

“Convene the National Security Council, and adopt a position. But the one that should be speaking for the country is the Department of Foreign Affairs,’’ he said.

But first, presidential spokespersons Secretary Ramon Carandang, Secretary Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte should defer to the Department of Foreign Affairs to articulate the country’s position on Spratlys, Enrile said.

“They should not be talking like that,’’ he said in response to Carandang’s statement that the country had to defend its sovereignty. “They’re in effect locking the President in a [position]. Let the DFA do the talking.’’

“If I were Ricky Carandang, Lacierda and Valte, I’ll keep quiet… We’re talking of the interest of the nation, not the interest of the government in place,’’ he added.

He added: “If I were President Aquino, the less he will get involved, the better for the country and for him. Let the department do the job. Otherwise everything will go to him, and he will be the lone voice attending to all problems.’’

He said the DFA should handle the political and international aspects of the problem, and the Department of National Defense, the military aspect.

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TAGS: Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Diplomacy, geopolitic, Global Nation, international relations, Politics, Spratly Islands, territorial disputes, Territories
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