Close  

Palace tells DFA chief, Trillanes to shut up on West Philippine Sea dispute

By: - Day Desk Chief / @umichaelNQ
/ 09:38 PM September 19, 2012

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang moved swiftly to contain the fire stoked by revelations of infighting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and pro-administration Senator Antonio Trillanes IV over the issue of the West Philippine Sea being disputed by China.

President Aquino ordered both officials to keep things to themselves until he has separately met with them.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a Palace briefing, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda disclosed that the President had already talked with Del Rosario.

“The President intends to speak to Senator Trillanes also,” said Lacierda, but was quick to say that Trillanes was authorized by the President to talk with Beijing officials via back-channel negotiations.

FEATURED STORIES

This, he said, was during the height of the tensions between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal.

“And the President said let’s keep our options open. The President was approached by Senator Trillanes that there’s a way forward to hold these things … and so, that’s what happened,” said Lacierda, adding, “But you must remember that Senator Trillanes also mentioned in an interview just now—just a while ago—that there are no disagreements between him and Secretary (Albert) Del Rosario. And they have been asked by the President to refrain from making any further comments.”

But as to whether the President could pacify the two, Lacierda said: “I don’t know if those differences continue to exist. What I know is that the President will speak to Senator Trillanes and also he has spoken to Secretary Del Rosario. It looks nice for the press that two officials—high government officials—engage in discussions in media. But the President has asked both of them to refrain from making further statements until he speaks to them. He spoke to Secretary Del Rosario. He intends to speak to Senator Trillanes.”

However, Lacierda stressed that Del Rosario still had the trust and confidence of the President, at the same time denying seeing anything inappropriate with what Trillanes did.

“Senator Trillanes has the best interest of the country in mind,” said Lacierda, who also said, “I can categorically say it that … the Secretary of Foreign Affairs enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.”

Based on Lacierda’s account, Trillanes approached the President in April at the height of the Scarborough issue. But Trillanes denied this.

Asked whether the senator had been an effective negotiator given that Del Rosario himself said that back-channeling negotiations had done more harm than good, Lacierda said: “We will withhold comment on that until further notice from the President.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Lacierda credited the senator for de-escalating tension in the disputed area from April to May, when at least 80 to 100 Chinese ships dropped anchor in the disputed waters.

“The context by which he authorized Senator Trillanes was to keep all options open. So that’s the only thing we were informed,” said Lacierda.

In the same vein, Lacierda defended Del Rosario, saying that the secretary got his marching orders from the President. “The position taken by the secretary of Foreign Affairs is also the same position taken by the President. So it is irrelevant how China views Secretary Del Rosario because the policy maker, the chief policy maker is the President,” said the President’s spokesman.

Lacierda said this when asked whether it was Del Rosario’s link to the US as a former ambassador to Washington that made China wary of his presence in the negotiating table.

“So our position in Scarborough Shoal or in Panatag Shoal is very, very clear. The President has mentioned that in several interviews with (the) media, that our position on Scarborough Shoal is that it is found within our exclusive economic zone and, therefore, we have sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal. That has not changed. Whether the accusation that Secretary Del Rosario is an ‘Amboy’ (American boy) is totally not true and irrelevant to the issue because the chief policy maker is the President.”

Lacierda also rejected insinuations that the previous association of Del Rosario with businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan had triggered the diplomatic impasse.

Del Rosario had worked for Pangilinan before entering public service.

Philex Petroleum chaired by Pangilinan was recently awarded with Service Contract No. 72 to explore oil deposits in Recto Bank, another disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea near Palawan.

“Absolutely that’s not true. If it is true that he is protecting the interest of a businessman, he would not have adopted a position that says, ‘What is ours is ours.’ We have taken a position that says that those resources that are found within our exclusive economic zone are our sovereign rights, and therefore, it is not true that Secretary Del Rosario sought to promote the interest of a businessman,” said Lacierda.

Lacierda would not want to dwell into the credentials of Trillanes in international diplomacy, if any, but chose to look at the “minor successes coming from the back-channeling of Senator Trillanes.

“But that is as much as I can say,” said the spokesman, as he denied any infighting between the two.

“But there has been no disagreement. The position of the government, the policy of the government towards our approach to Scarborough Shoal, is the same. We have not changed our position there. You must remember the chief policy maker is the President,” he said.

The presidential spokesman claimed that although China was talking separately to Del Rosario and Trillanes, who have not been exactly seeing eye-to-eye on the West Philippine Sea issue, the setup did not set back the relations between Manila and Beijing.

“No, it has not. If you noticed, the relationship between China and the Philippines has—and the President also said it in Vladivostok (in Russia)—that (it) is better now than it was during the height of the tension,” said Lacierda.

But as to whether the President could pacify the two, Lacierda said: “I don’t know if those differences continue to exist. What I know is that the President will speak to Senator Trillanes and also he has spoken to Secretary Del Rosario. It looks nice for the press that two officials—high government officials—engage in discussions in media. But the President has asked both of them to refrain from making further statements until he speaks to them. He spoke to Secretary Del Rosario. He intends to speak to Senator Trillanes.”

When a reporter asked if Trillanes could be liable for either treason or treachery, Lacierda said: “No, because treason as a crime is committed during times of war. I don’t think there is anything treasonous. Senator Trillanes has the best interest of the country in mind.”

He was also leaving it up to the senator to explain why he was quoted on record by the media on matters involving the country’s territorial dispute with China.

“He should be the best person to explain his role as a backdoor negotiator vis-à-vis speaking to the reporters,” said Lacierda, who claimed that he was not briefed by the President on the scope of the responsibility entrusted to the senator as a backdoor negotiator.

The presidential spokesman pointed out that it was the President himself who recognized “the minor successes that were done” with the help of Trillanes, but “he (Aquino) didn’t specify the details.”

Lacierda maintained that the secretary of foreign affairs “conveys the policy of this government to China through the ambassador,” and that he was duly informed of Trillanes’ parallel efforts.

When the President talked to Del Rosario, “they have not discussed anything substantive yet—only that the President has asked Secretary Del Rosario to refrain from responding to the statements that were found in the (Inquirer),” Lacierda said.

In the middle of the briefing, which was aired live by state-run PTV-4, Lacierda read a statement sent via a text message by Trillanes.

“I would like to clarify that SFA [secretary of foreign affairs] and I have no disagreements, and I will state that P-Noy (Aquino) through the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] is the sole source of our foreign policy,” said Trillanes.

“I was merely tasked to help out de-escalate the tension in Panatag and the improved situation right now is the result of a collective effort of everyone involved. But, ultimately, it was President Aquino who was calling the shots,” the senator added.

Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Albert del Rosario, Antonio Trillanes IV, Benigno Aquino III, China, Department of Foreign Affairs, Diplomacy, Foreign affairs, Geopolitics, Global Nation, international relations, Malacañang, Philippines, Politics, Senate, South China sea, Spratlys, territorial disputes, West Philippine Sea
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.