Trillanes calls Cayetano "political snake" over territorial dispute with China
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Sunday called Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano a “political snake” for virtually flip-flopping on his stance over the Philippine territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
In a statement, Trillanes recalled Cayetano's support to the position of then President Benigno Aquino III in handling the dispute with Beijing, particularly when a standoff between the Philippines and Chinese ships took place in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal off Zambales in 2012.
“The Panatag standoff happened in 2012 during which time Cayetano was still a loyal ally of the Aquino administration, so obviously, he never saw anything wrong with how PNoy (former President Benigno Aquino III) resolved it then,” Trillanes said.
He also noted that during his exchange with then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Cayetano even defended him since he was the Senate minority leader that time.
"In fact, I clearly remember telling him, as well as the other senators then, of the gist of my mission as backchannel negotiator. For that matter, I had multiple media interviews about it but, again, Cayetano never saw anything wrong with it then,” he said.
Aquino designated Trillanes as a backchannel negotiator with China in the hope to lessen the tension between the two countries in 2012.
Trillanes, a former Navy officer, explained his role as backchannel negotiator during the Aquino administration after Cayetano on his Facebook post last August 2 said the Philippines missed many opportunities because of the approached they chose to adopt and implement.
The opposition senator said he was officially designated as the backchannel negotiator by Aquino in May 2012 at the height of the Panatag standoff, wherein about 80 to 100 Chinese vessels of various sizes were in and around the shoal.
“My mission, generally, was to deescalate the tension in the shoal. Specifically, it entailed the reduction of the number of Chinese ships in the area,” he said.
“The issue of sovereignty was not covered and was never discussed. The negotiations lasted for about three months, at the end of which we were able to reduce the number of Chinese ships in the area to just three, all of which were positioned outside the shoal. In short, I was able to accomplish my mission,” he added.
He also said that due to China's refusal to remove the three remaining ships, the Aquino administration was forced to file a case before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal.
In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China's "sovereign" and "historic" claim in almost the entire South China Sea through its nine-dash line.
But President Rodrigo Duterte, who already assumed as the new Philippine president, decided to put at the back burner the PCA decision and has taken a "softer" and "friendly" stance with China. Duterte, however, promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with China at the proper time before his term ends in 2022.
Trillanes asked Cayetano why the current administration did not follow through the historic victory of the country on the arbitration court and why it is not fighting for the Philippine sovereignty.
“Those are the facts and circumstances about this issue and I will not allow Cayetano to twist them. Now the question to Cayetano and his boss, Duterte, is this: 'Why didn't you follow through on our historic victory at the arbitrarion court?' Or better yet: 'Why aren't you fighting for our sovereignty the way you promised during the campaign?',” he said.
Last July 31, before leaving for Singapore to attend the 51st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Related Meetings, Cayetano hit Aquino for asking the Duterte administration to be more transparent in dealing with China regarding its dispute in the South China Sea.
The DFA chief said Aquino may have been misinformed of the actions undertaken by the Duterte administration to defend the country’s sovereignty over disputed maritime territory in the South China Sea, particularly the West Philippines Sea.
China has built artificial islands, including those inside the Philippine 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone, and placed in them military system. Ella Dionisio, Celerina Monte/DMS