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The real culprits

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“A string of blunders that started from the appointment of Trillanes as PNoy’s agent for backchannel talks and the subsequent faulty advice given by Trillanes to withdraw Philippine vessels from the disputed area led to the current situation where China has dominated the area of dispute”

President Rody Duterte chose for his foreign policy the engagement of China rather than the way of confrontation which his predecessor former President Noynoy Aquino or PNoy took.

Rody’s efforts to mend ties with China were then spun by his critics, who are the yellow supporters of PNoy and the pro-American groups, as surrendering sovereignty.

The Chinese buildup in the contested West Philippine Sea and the subsequent installation of weapon systems in the artificial islands are then blamed on Rody’s policy shift.

History, however, has a way of exposing the truth, and it has turned out that the tandem of PNoy and his then-backdoor negotiator Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV may have had a lot to do with the loss of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to the Chinese which arguably was the start of China’s aggressive assertion of its claims in the disputed region.

At the time, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had warned PNoy the backdoor talks were dangerous to the interest of the country.

PNoy apparently ignored Enrile’s advice and went on to use Trillanes as his agent to China.
The maritime rift with China worsened after Noynoy escalated the situation by sending a Philippine Navy ship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to accost Chinese poachers in Scarborough Shoal.

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar was a decommissioned Hamilton-class cutter of the US Coast Guard which Noynoy acquired from the administration of former US President Barack Obama when the US government was embarking on an Asian pivot policy mainly to contain China.

Prior to the incident, a status quo existed in which complaints over the conflicting claims were being resolved through diplomatic channels.

A string of blunders that started from the appointment of Trillanes as PNoy’s agent for backchannel talks and the subsequent faulty advice given by Trillanes to withdraw Philippine vessels from the disputed area led to the current situation where China has dominated the area of dispute. China has not pulled out its maritime presence up to now.

Enrile, in the now-historic verbal brawl with Trillanes on the Senate floor, cited the notes of former Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady in 2012 which stated: The Chinese wanted the Philippines to “tone down the rhetoric” on its incursion in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal; Trillanes suspected United States involvement in creating tension in Panatag Shoal and that (then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert) Del Rosario was “committing treason”; Trillanes “was protecting the Chinese,” “was alarmist” and accused Del Rosario of “creating a war event;” Trillanes asked businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, a close friend of Del Rosario, to advise the secretary “to keep quiet, to quiet down” apparently because the secretary held a press conference decrying Chinese presence in Panatag Shoal; Trillanes stated “no one cares about Panatag Shoal in the Philippines;” Trillanes said the Philippines “cannot enforce coastal protection” since fishermen subsist only on fishing and cannot venture far out; Trillanes boasted he was able to make 40 Chinese ships leave Panatag Shoal; Trillanes volunteered to become the “direct channel” between China and Malacañang, and Trillanes asked PNoy to replace Del Rosario with Liberal Party (LP) kingpin Mar Roxas.

Del Rosario echoed Enrile’s view that creating a back channel with China through Trillanes did more harm than good since it exposed division and weakness within the administration in addressing the China threat.

Enrile in his tiff with Trillanes said he suspected the senator of being a double agent for China and called him a “fifth columnist” or a traitor.

The current efforts to pin the blame on Rody for China’s assertive moves are obvious efforts to obfuscate and divert the issue from the real culprits of the mess.

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