Two former administration officials are under fire for their supposed “wrong” decision that led to the country’s loss of Panatag Shoal to China in 2012.
President Duterte has criticized former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. for allegedly not seeking a “mutually acceptable” pullout of ships during the Panatag standoff with China. He also took a swipe at them for supposedly just following the United States’ word when it intervened during the conflict.
The withdrawal of the Philippine ships ordered by Del Rosario merely allowed China to lay claim the West Philippine Sea as its “property,” according to the President.
“Ngayon ang tanong ko ganito, bakit hindi mo sinabi — hindi ninyo sinabi na (Now my question is why did you not state) the withdrawal must be mutually acceptable in the sense that what — how many kilometers would I surrender that would be the same rule for you? Na hindi nila tinawag lahat ‘dahan-dahan lang, diyan na muna kayo.” Eh sinabi ni Albert, ‘Uwi kayo,’ (You didn’t even insist on taking it slow and staying put. Albert just said, ‘go home’),’ Duterte said during his taped televised speech Friday.
“Nandoon tayo, pinauwi tayo. Binukas — binuksan natin the (We were there and yet we pulled out. We opened the) floodgates para for China to enter and to renege on its commitment to everybody and opted to stay there and claim the West Philippine Sea as their property,” he added.
In 2012, the United States supposedly brokered an agreement on the simultaneous withdrawal of the Filipino and Chinese ships from the Panatag Shoal to end the two-month standoff. The past administration ordered the withdrawal of two Philippine ships citing bad weather, believing China would follow suit. Beijing however stayed in the area and effectively took control of the territory.
The incident prompted the Aquino administration to file a complaint against China before the Hague-based arbitration court. In 2016, the country won the arbitral award that nullified China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea but Beijing refused to recognize the ruling.
In his remarks, Duterte claimed that it was Cuisia who informed Del Rosario about the alleged US-brokered deal, which they kept a “secret” to the public. The involvement of the US was only revealed by the formers officials years after the incident.
“Tapos ito naman si Albert was the one who received the message from Cuisia from the State Department kasi in-admitan na ni Cuisia ngayon eh. Ngayon lang ito lumabas (because Cuisia admitted it now. It came out now) My God,” Duterte said.
“Tinago nila ‘yan na iyon pala galing doon kay Ambassador Cuisia, ipinasa kay sa ating gobyerno, ipinasa ni PNoy doon kay Albert tapos (They hid it. It turned out it came from Ambassador Cuisia who passed the information to our government, PNoy passed it to Albert then) Albert was the one who ordered the ships of the — or the ship of the Philippine government to withdraw,” he added.
Duterte also expressed dismay that past administration officials simply fell for the Americans’ word about the ship pullout. He said the US initially claimed it would not get involved in a territorial dispute but still brokered the deal during the Panatag stalemate.
“Nakialam kayo, pinaatras ninyo ang Pilipinas (You intervened, you asked the Philippines to pull out the ships),” he said about the US.
“Eh kayo naman kasi puro (But you’re to blame)… What the Americans would say, susunod-sunod lang kayo (you just followed them),” he said.
When the US proposed the ship pullout, Duterte insisted that former Philippine officials should have set certain parameters on how the withdrawal of vessels was to be implemented.
“Bakit pinaatras ninyo? Anong napasok sa bakukang sa ulo ninyo (Why did you order the pullout? What insect went into your head?)” he added.
Duterte said the past administration should have only agreed to withdraw the ships if China also pulled out its vessels.
“If you do not make the same move in the withdrawal, I will not. So hindi ako bibitaw. Ngayon, kung umatras ka nang kalahating kilometro ngayon, aatras ako kung gusto ko talaga (I will not move. Now, if you pull out half a kilometer now, I will also pull out),” he said.
Unfortunately, the local ships were ordered to leave and didn’t bother to look back, Duterte recalled.
“Pag-atras, wala na silang ginawa. They just — no hey, no hi, diretso sa — tumalikod na lang at pinauwi. Bakit ganoon? Bakit ganoon? Bright man kaya kayo (After pullout, they did noting. They just, no hey, no hi. We just turned around and went home. Why? You’re supposed to be bright),” he said.
The President previously proposed an investigation into the controversial ship pullout during the Panatag standoff, insisting Del Rosario should be made accountable over the loss of the territory. He even said the former foreign affairs official should be executed “by hanging” for his role in the conflict.
Del Rosario rejected the allegations hurled against him, insisting China should be blamed for its alleged “duplicity” for occupying the Scarborough Shoal and continued violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.