‘Uncooperative’ DFA, Namria execs irk Tolentino at maritime zones hearing
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Tolentino on Wednesday criticized and scolded officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) for being “uncooperative” in the country’s goal to establish a Maritime Zones law.
Tolentino, who sits as the chairperson of the Senate special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones, flagged Namria Deputy Administrator Efren Carandang and DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Affairs Jesus Domingo during the upper chamber’s hearing on the establishment of maritime zones.
“Hindi ko alam kung bakit takot kayo. Kapag may ginagawa ang China, ang tatapang. Pero dito sa hearing, hindi makapagsalita,” said Tolentino during the upper chamber’s hearing on the establishment of maritime zones.
(I don’t know why you are afraid. When China is doing something, you act brave. But here in the hearing, you can’t even talk.)
While he did not specifically mention their names, both Senior State Solicitor Jane Yu and DFA Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office Director Andrea Leycano also received strong criticisms from Tolentino.
This transpired after Tolentino prodded the officials to identify the “potential overlaps” in neighboring countries if the Philippines would come up with a maritime delimitation agreement.
“We are trying to craft something that would perhaps, in the end, produce a proper delimitation agreement with the overlapping jurisdictions. This would be for the benefit of all the claimant states,” said Tolentino.
Both Leycano and Yu were hesitant to answer, saying that negotiations with neighboring states are necessary to determine this potential overlap.
“Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin. Hindi po ito dahil sa tayo ay nagtatago. Ang ating pananaw lamang ay maaaring may mga sensitibong bagay — halimbawa, kung ang mga bansang ‘yun ay gumagawa rin ng kanilang delimitation ngayon, at ‘yun po ang magiging subject ng ating negotiations,” said Yu.
(I apologize. This does not mean that we are hiding. Our perspective is that there may be sensitive things — for example, if that particular country is crafting its delimitation right now, then that might be the subject of our negotiations.)
Leycano, on the other hand, said the DFA is not hesitant in protecting the rights of the Philippines, but she also stressed that the department follows a particular procedure.
“DFA is completely at the disposal of the legislative branch to help pursue the enactment and formulation of these laws. But our general work entails negotiations with other states,” she pointed out.
An irked Tolentino then underscored that if the country wants to pass a Maritime Zones Law, then it needs to know which nations are overlapping the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“The job of [the] Senate is to produce legislation here. Our job here is not to be diplomatically hesitant,” said Tolentino.
Before he suspended the hearing, Tolentino specifically flagged Yu and Carandang, saying that they would no longer be a part of the future hearings of the committee.