Aquino: We’re not going to war with China

Navy pullout from Scarborough meant to ease tension


GET OUT Activists stage a protest in front of China’s consular office in Makati City on Monday demanding the immediate pullout of Chinese vessels from Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Stressing that he did not intend to go to war against China, President Benigno Aquino III said on Monday he was attempting to ease tensions at Scarborough Shoal by deploying a Coast Guard cutter in the area to match Beijing’s civilian vessel there and continuing talks with Chinese diplomats.

“It would be difficult if we are not talking anymore,’’ the President said. “It’s better to jaw-jaw than to war-war,’’ Mr. Aquino told reporters, quoting the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

In a hastily called news conference in Malacañang to respond to  widespread criticism of his handling of the power crisis in Mindanao, the President explained for the first time the actions taken by his government on the week-old standoff at the shoal whose resolution, he said, was a “work in progress.’’

Mr. Aquino said the government had no intention to escalate tensions at the shoal when it sent its Navy warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, there last week.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, the President explained that the Navy flagship was en route to the eastern coastline of northern Luzon to stand vigil there in case debris from the April 13 launch of a North Korean missile fell there.

“On its way there, it was informed by a Navy aircraft that it spotted fishing vessels and [since] part of its duty is to enforce our maritime laws, it inspected [the vessels] and found these endangered species,’’ he said, referring to poached marine life aboard what turned out to be Chinese craft.

He said the Navy frigate left the area immediately upon the arrival of a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, which he described as a “civilian component’’ under the Department of Transportation and Communications and which was dispatched “just to demonstrate that we want to de-escalate the situation.’’

On Monday, he said PCG vessel 003 was replaced by PCG vessel 002 so that it could refuel and take on provisions like water. “We don’t have replenishment at sea capabilities,” he said.

“So 002 will maintain station to assert our sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, which is about 160 nautical miles (296 km) from our coastline and which is well within our exclusive economic zone,’’ the Chief Executive said.

Trying to de-escalate

When a reporter pointed out to him that authorities were unable to arrest the Chinese poachers and confiscate the items they got, the President shot back:  “Will it be better for us to deploy all our maritime vessels there, prevent Chinese maritime surveillance vessels that are unarmed and force China to react by sending their own military vessels?’’

“Would escalation serve the national interest?’’ he  asked, adding that the two sides had not stopped exploring all avenues to resolve the impasse. “We have two missions: One, not to escalate the situation and two, to protect our sovereignty,’’ he said.

The President also dismissed speculation about the timing of the annual Philippine-US Balikatan exercises, which started Monday, amid the standoff at  Scarborough Shoal, a cluster of reefs and islets surrounding a lagoon that is being claimed by China. The area is separate from the Spratlys, which are being disputed by the Philippines and China, along with Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

“It will not serve us any good that at a time that we are trying to de-escalate the situation, we will put in place something that will potentially be a subject of complaint of the other side,’’ he said.

While he said his government was prepared to protect the country’s sovereignty “to the limits of our capabilities,” he stressed that the Philippines did not have the resources to fight the Chinese, “even in boxing, they are 1.3 billion, we are 95 million.”

No breakthrough

The President noted a provision in the Constitution that “we renounce war as [an] instrument of national policy and I am bound to follow that.’’

That’s why he said it was important for the two nations to continue with their dialogue, now being conducted between Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing, because Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was now in the US on a previous engagement.

“I’m hopeful that reasonable people … can come up with a situation that will resolve the situation,’’ Mr. Aquino said.

Basilio and Ma held discussions for 45 minutes Monday afternoon. The Chinese ambassador declined comment on the outcome of the talks but her political counselor Bai Tien, told reporters, “No breakthrough.”

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said “the discussions ended in a stalemate.”

Hernandez also announced that the Philippines on Monday lodged a diplomatic protest over “acts of harassment” by Chinese ships and aircraft of the MY Saranggani, a Manila-based vessel doing archeological research in the shoal area last week.

In a news conference earlier, Hernandez shrugged off suggestions by Senator Joker Arroyo that the Philippines had become an “orphan” that could not depend on the United States or its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to protect its territory against Chinese intrusions.

“Our regional and international partners, including the United States, our treaty ally, are assisting us upgrade our capabilities and build a minimum credible defense posture,” Hernandez said. With a report from Jerry E. Esplanada

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  • pogi


    never allow filipinos to be bullied by these animals…they have no respect in our country.

    why be scared to these animals….we have allies to protect us…in case of war.

    they’re too abusive….they thought they’re on top of the world.

    habang pinapakita mo…penoy ang takot…lalo nila tatakutin ang mga pinoy.


    let’s start war against these animal chinese.

    remember lumaban ang mga ninuno natin sa gerra na BOLO (ITAK) LANG ANG PANLABAN AT HAWAK.

    ganyan katapang ang mga filipino….palibhasa WALA KANG BAYAG.

  • manny3

    There is no need to go to war with China. We just need to be brave and stand toe to toe with them. The next time they enter Philippine waters with their modern ships, block them with a lot of banka.  If they run them over, or if they shoot, record on video and show the world. If we can sway world opinion against China, they won’t be able to do anything. We just have to be patient and make China look like bullies in the eyes of the world. The Filipinos just have to be patient and smart. Use the world court, seek the support of all the surrounding countries, etc. and if we go by way of Tibet, we still have the treaty with the USA.
    Just because they have been using it or it is named South China Sea it already means it is theirs. Am I to understand that you believe the Filipino fishermen didn’t use and fish there also since the beginning? They didn’t use it or pass through it for trade? China claims all of South China Sea and whatever’s in it is theirs. They would claim they have it in their old maps and have Chinese names on their maps .. They also have a Chinese name for the Philippines.. that doesn’t mean it is theirs. It is only lately after these nationalistic and greedy senators, congressmen and Filipinos who thought they can do better and kicked the Seventh Fleet out of the Philippines did the Chinese modern ships with bigger guns start pushing around the Filipinos, Vietnamese etc fishermen fishing in the Spratlys. With 7100 or so islands, a country surrounded with water.. you’d think that these “smart and nationalistic” Filipinos will have the brains to set up a modern Navy first to protect the country before kicking out the US Navy guarding the Philippine waters. Oh yeah.. they are still around.. you’ll find them still protesting..  They should be herded in buses then shipped to be put on those bancas in the Spratlys to defend the country from the Chinese. What is this? We don’t allow any foreign militay/army/navy presence in the country unless temporarily and by invite? I’d like to see these big mouths tell the Chinese!!
    This also goes for those protesting the Americans who volunteer to fight for the Filipinos against the Muslim threat in the South. Those who protest because they want the Filipinos to die instead? I never got that… Gather them all and ship them to Mindanao and give them the chance and honor to die for their country..

  • Rich

    A Brilliant Commander won’t bring his people to WAR so where is your Mind and Spirit Mr. President?

  • manny3

    Did you think that since the Chinese had been fishing there for centuries, it is theirs? Are you telling me that you believe that Filipino fishermen didn’t fish there since the beginning, too?
    I am blaming the senators, congressmen, and the minority of Filipinos who decided to kick the US bases and the 7th Fleet out without thinking and preparing for the consequences to the country and the Filipino people, With the country surrounded with water and thousands of miles of coasts to protect we should have the biggest and the best Navy in the world. Well, do we? They can’t even have any way of controlling the Filipinos who use dynamite and destroy the coral reefs in the Philippines. They kicked out the US as if they can defend the Philippines from any foreign threat. They can’t even win against the few NPA, or few Muslims causing trouble in the South.

  • prangka

    What is America for? I thought you are going to protect our interest? 

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