Gatchalian tells Duterte gov't: Move on from Trillanes issue, focus on WPS

Published May 18, 2021, 11:10 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday urged the Duterte government to move on from the issue surrounding former senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s back door negotiations during the time of the Aquino administration and not divert the issue about the West Philippine Sea.

Gatchalian, in an interview on Radio DWIZ, said he would rather choose the government deal with the present challenge posed by the Chinese presence in the WPS region than look back to what happened in the past.

“For me, I would rather move on because if you look at what occured back then, you would just be digging up the past,” Gatchalian said in the radio interview in Filipino.

The senator made the call after former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile raised the issue about Trillanes’ role in the back channeling talks during the 2012 standoff in Panatag Shoal during a taped meeting with President Duterte aired on Monday night.

President Benigno Aquino III during that time tapped Trillanes for the mission which involves de-escalating the tension in the Shoal where about 80 to 100 Chinese vessels of various sizes were in and around the area.

Following Trillanes’ mission, the Chinese ships in the area numbering about 80 to 100 were reduced to just three. The former senator has since then declared his designation on that stand off as “mission accomplished.”

Trillanes, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration and of Enrile, last week declared his intent to run for the presidency in the upcoming May 2022 elections.

During Monday night’s presser, Duterte and Enrile sought to revive the issue of Trillanes’ role in the negotiations and accused him of bypassing then Ambassador to China Sonia Brady.

Duterte also again belittled the arbitral award which upheld the Philippines claims in the WPS, but Enrile rejected this saying the ruling was not meaningless but the United Nations (UN) have no means to implement the international court’s decision.

However, at this point, Gatchalian said it is crucial that the Chinese government hears that all Filipinos are united in claiming that “the West Philippine Sea and the exclusive economic zone is ours.”

“Because if all they are hearing is never endless bickering then we are giving them time to do what they want to do in that area,” he pointed out.

“That’s why for me, let’s not waste time digging up the past, because if we do that, I’m sure it will all just be about politics,” added the lawmaker.

“I’m very sure we won’t talk about anything else except politics. That’s why it’s more important for me if we just move on and all of us be looking at the future,” Gatchalian stressed. [Hannah L. Torregoza]