The views of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile about the West Philippine Sea may not be the “gospel truth,” but he can shed light on events including the role of two former administration officials in the country’s loss of the Panatag Shoal to China, Malacañang said Monday.
Enrile has agreed to attend President Duterte’s regular “Talk to the People” on Monday night and will give his insights about the territorial conflict, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
The former lawmaker is expected to discuss the roles of former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario during the Panatag Shoal standoff with China in 2012, Roque added.
“Sino ba talaga dapat sisihin sa kontrobersiya ng WPS at ano ang pinakamagandang polisiya na ipatupad ng ating Pangulo. Hindi naman gospel truth siguro ang sasabihin ni former Senate President JPE pero dahil nga sa napakatagal niyang karanasan bilang Secretary of National Defense, alam niya ang mga pangyayari (Who should be blamed for the West Philippine Sea controversy and what’s the best policy to be enforced by the President will be discussed. What former Senate President JPE will say may not be the gospel truth but he has a long experience as Secretary of Defense and he knows what happened),” Roque said during a televised briefing Monday, May 17.
“Sabi nga ni Pangulo, former Senator Enrile was there right at the beginning. Kinakailangan na pakinggan ang sasabihin ng dating senador dahil magandang malaman ang papel ni dating Senador Trillanes at dating Secretary Albert del Rosario sa pagkawala ng Scarborough Shoal sa Pilipinas. Ang pagkawala ng Scarborough Shoal ang naging hudyat ng kaguluhan sa West Philippine Sea na dati naman na tahimik (The President said former Senator Enrile was there from the beginning. We must listen to the view of the former senator because it is good to know the role of former Senator Trillanes and former Secretary Albert del Rosario on the loss of Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines. The loss of Scarborough Shoal was the trigger of the conflict in the West Philippine Sea that was previously serene),” he added.
President Duterte earlier invited Enrile to the Palace to discuss the issues related to the West Philippine Sea. Duterte said he was prepared to listen to Enrile, recognizing his intelligence as well as understanding of the maritime conflict.
Duterte previously blamed the past administration, particularly Del Rosario, for the alleged “wrong” pullout of local ships from Panatag Shoal to ease the standoff upon the reported advice of the United States. When Manila withdrew its ships, China chose to stay and took possession of the territory.
in 2012, Enrile raised questions about the backdoor negotiations conducted by Trillanes with Chinese officials on the sea dispute. The former Senate President bared the contents of the notes written by then Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady on a meeting with Trillanes.
Roque said Enrile’s statement would be “for Philippine history” since the people supposedly don’t know about the role of Trillanes in the Panatag Shoal standoff based on the so-called “Brady notes.” He said it was important to know how the country lost possession of the shoal and who were involved.
He said they needed Enrile’s “insights” since he was the longest serving Defense secretary of the country. Enrile was appointed defense minister in 1970 during the Marcos administration until he joined the historic 1986 EDSA People Power revolution that ousted Marcos.
“We need his insights dahil siya ang ang longest serving na secretary of national defense ng ating bansa,” Roque added, adding Presidential Decree No. 1596 that declared Kalayaan Island Group as part of Philippines was signed during the Marcos administration.
Tension in the region reignited after Manila protested the unlawful presence of Chinese vessels in the country’s waters. President Duterte has refused to go to war with China over the conflict, saying Beijing remained a good friend of the country. Duterte however assured the nation that he would not compromise the country’s territory over the assistance given by China, including the coronavirus vaccines donated to Filipinos.