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Cayetano: What about Del Rosario's transparency on South China Sea?

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Cayetano: What about Del Rosario's transparency on South China Sea?
"On the contrary, maybe President Aquino should ask Secretary (Albert) Del Rosario, 'Were you transparent with me?" Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.
PCOO / Rey Baniquet

MANILA, Philippines — Insisting that the Duterte administration has always been transparent on its foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that former President Benigno Aquino III was misinformed on the West Philippine Sea issue.

Aquino has been calling on the Duterte administration to be more transparent on its negotiations with China on the dipsuted waters.

Cayetano, in a press briefing before leaving for Singapore, stressed that there are no secret deals between the Philippines and China.

The department has, however, been tight-lipped about how it has been dealing with incidents in the South China Sea, part of which is within Manila's exclusive economic zone and is called the West Philippine Sea. "At the right time, we will prove you wrong because nothing is secret forever," Cayetano said in May to defend the perceived secrecy.

"On the contrary, maybe President Aquino should ask Secretary (Albert) Del Rosario: 'Were you transparent with me?" Cayetano told reporters Tuesday in his typical rhetorical style when responding to criticism.

The Foreign Affairs chief claimed that there are no complete records on who ordered Philippine ships to leave the Scaborough Shoal during a standoff in 2012.

READ: Noy orders pullout of ships from shoal | Noy: China reneged on Scarborough deal

"How did we leave Scarborough? Do any of you know? Was it really Sen. (Antonio) Trillanes who said leave or don't leave? Was it really Foreign Secretary Del Rosario who said (leave)?" the Foreign Affairs secretary said.

Under a deal mediated by the United States in 2012, the Philippines and China agreed to withdraw their forces from the shoal until a deal over ownership was finalized but only Manila complied with the deal.

The Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar was pulled out of the Scarborough Shoal on April 12, 2012 when Chinese civilian ships entered the area. The Navy said that the ship was withdrawn to replenish fuel and good provisions.

"I have some of the reports but it's not complete. It was only stated there, 'Let's wait for the text of Sen. Trillanes, the president said and then the ship was gone... They did not complete the records, they did not tell us," Cayetano said.

'Robredo, Aquino being fed wrong information'

Cayetano also claimed that Vice President Leni Robredo and Aquino were being fed wrong information.

"It's very unfortunate that the same small corps who hijacked the foreign policy in the last administration are feeding them information that is simply not true," Cayetano said.

Robredo has also been calling on the Duterte administration to assert the country's victory in its arbitration against China. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a landmark ruling invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The vice president warned that the Philippines is losing the advantage it gained through the arbitral award when the government chose to shelve it in exchange of better ties with China.

Despite Cayetano's pronouncements that the government has always been transparent on its dealings with Beijing, the Department of Foreign Affairs has always been silent on the supposed diplomatic protests filed against China for violations of Philippine sovereignty.

Cayetano had claimed that the DFA has filed 50 to 100 protests against China's expansive maritime claims but refused to disclose the nature of the protests. Appearing to redefine the concept of diplomatic protests, he earlier said that a simple objection of Duterte could be considered a diplomatic protest.

A diplomatic protest or demarche is a request or intercession with a foreign official or a protest about the host government’s policy or actions, according to the US Department of State.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO

ALBERT DEL ROSARIO

ANTONIO TRILLANES IV

BENIGNO AQUINO III

LENI ROBREDO

PHILIPPINE NAVY

SCARBOROUGH SHOAL

SOUTH CHINA SEA

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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