US envoy mum on Philippine-China standoff


US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. (File Photo)

MANILA, Philippines—US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. made a show of tearing up the text of his prepared speech at the closing of the Philippines-US “Balikatan” military exercises on Friday, opting to speak extemporaneously.

Still, neither he nor any of the Filipino and American military officials in the room made any mention of China and the standoff in the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which provided a backdrop for the two-week exercises in various parts of the country, including areas near disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Thomas did not acknowledge the Panatag issue in his brief remarks at the closing ceremony for Balikatan held at Camp Aguinaldo, during which he ripped up his notes, a gesture he said he imitated from former President Fidel V. Ramos.

“Now I’ve made my staff very nervous because now they go, ‘what he is going to say?’” he said to laughter.

But for a passing reference to an “assurance of the Mutual Defense Treaty” between the Philippines and the United States, Thomas did not make any controversial statements, quickly slipping out of the hall when  the ceremony was over and avoiding reporters waiting at the door.

“I learned from my two years in the Philippines that we must conduct all of our activities with respect, with alignment of our priorities, with assurance of our Mutual Defense Treaty and knowing that we work with and under the wishes of President Aquino and Secretary of Defense (Voltaire) Gazmin,” he said.

“So thank you for letting us conduct this wonderful 28th Balikatan exercise. We appreciate being here in your country,” Thomas said.

The two-week Balikatan exercise commenced on April 16 and involved 4,500 American troops and 2,300 Filipino soldiers spread out in several towns, including war games in Puerto Princesa City on a bay facing sensitive pockets of the West Philippine Sea.

But the annual joint exercises attracted more attention than usual because of the Philippines’ continuing diplomatic spat with China over certain disputed territories, including a standoff between Philippine and Chinese forces at Panatag, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal.

The standoff followed a series of other confrontations in the contested waters with both sides trading accusations of intrusions on each other’s territories, particularly the Spratlys, a reputedly resource-rich chain of islets and reefs claimed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

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  • Rommel Jason

    C’mon guys, what would you expect? Didn’t Thomas say that they’re just here for the whoring?

    • Malik62

       Yeah,  and it’s because no less than the President himself BS Aquino x3 is the number one patron of whores.

  • Timujin King

    Actually, if you follow the filipino line of thinking, the fight over Spratlys are between Filipinos, rather than between China and the Philippines.  Filipinos jumped up and down upon reading the Filipino Press release that “rich FILIPINOS” made it to the Forbes list of the world’s richest and that “FILIPINO math wizards” won math competitions abroad.  When one read the details of the news, the “rich Filipinos” and the “Filipino math wizards” all have CHINESE NAMES.  The whole world knows the Chinese use any nationality they’ll believe will help them achieve their objectives, business or otherwise.  So if Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, the Gokongwei’s are Filipinos, then why not all the inhabitants of China?

    • pepito gwaps

      It means when a chinese come and learn from Filipinos they become great. Because we value character not money.

    • DodongM

       There is more people in Henan province than the whole Philippines! Think…

  • Martin

    Because the US envoy is African-Chinese.

  • cel

    Commentors on this thread don’t seem to have real compassion for their country and countrymen. It doesn’t matter if we have corruption and all that crap, people he are fighting it everyday and though the fight is tedious that is still way better than the oppression and forced sterilization that China has been doing to Tibet for half a century now. It doesn’t matter if we are outnumbered or whether US will help or not but even as we speak the world knows that we are standing our ground, we are resisting oppression from this bully and that alone speaks a lot about our character. China wants all of south east asia because in the near future it will run out of resources, because it has been greedily exploiting its own land for years, nothing will suffice its greed. Nothing but the rest of the world. it’s time that china respect international laws, and the chinese people should get out of that ivory tower in their heads and stop thinking that they are te only people in this world. These Filipino -Chinese excel not because they are Chinese, but because they have the best of both worlds, Filipino and Chinese, put them in any Chinese province and they will yearn for the Philippines. it’s Nurture not Nature! For the rest of you who are no better than the narrow-minded Chinese Netizens commenting on this issue, you don’t deserve the bright future of the Philippines. Get out and grow some perspective, and some balls while you’re at it. Worse, this comment came from a woman!

    • reddfrog

       You have balls? That makes you a hermaphrodite.

  • jucare2

    So what for is this balikatan?Balikatan for what? If the American government cant even speak about their position regarding the Chinese aggression then it is a one sided beneficiary,for sure not for  the Philippines but for the personal interest of the U.S.They dont’t care for us,or whatever happened to the Philippiness, Senator Enrile is correct to clarify our treaty with the yankees and if our country is not benefitting ,then why continue this balikatan.?..this might only fuel the unjustifiable bullying of the Chinese and find ourself in dire consequences…Filipinos rely heavily to the U.S. as if they are not our colonial invaders before.We treat them as our savior since world war 11.but we need to ask ourselves…how we are treated now? Let them or pressure them to compromised the uncompromise that they will assist us in case the rift between our country and China  escalated to a worst scenario.

  • PHtaxpayer

    US playing us for fools and the P-Noy administration is only too happy to oblige for some cheap attention he is getting from Obama.  We should scrap the VFA and Mutual Defense Treaty as history has shown it has caused us nothing but grief.  We should open our military upgrade acquisition requirements to other Asian countries but also develop our own indigenous defense capabilities to counter the growing Chinese threat.

  • Ignacio150

    It is because the US knows that RP is making a fool of itself by keeping on yakking and yakking without understanding clearly UNCLOS and ITLOS. This is the result of inept, incompetent and lazy governance.

  • Malik62

    Just notice the tunes of the Yellow Army in this blog, they are war mongering like their boss BS Aquino x3 who is clueless about the situation.

    In the International Game of Thrones, the Philippines is just a pawn, much more right now that the Philippines has an imbecile for president.


  • Sergio Garcia V

    What basis of assumption that China won’t comply? They had a peaceful means from Pres. Marcos – Cory Aquino – Ramos – Estrada – Arroyo. Why it is only happening now? 

    We should assume everyone is NOT guilty till proven otherwise. We should do it diplomatically in peaceful means via mutual dialogue and communication.

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