Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday scored the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for its “alarmist” posturing against China in the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Trillanes, who conducted back-channel talks with China at Malacañang’s behest last year, said the DFA should let the Department of National Defense (DND) do its job and apprehend intruders in Philippine-owned areas in the sea, and not announce everything to the media.
“I was assigned for a long time to that area and we did what had to be done without making noise in the media. We were able to protect our territory without making a big thing out of it in the press,” said Trillanes, a former junior Navy officer, in a media forum in Manila.
“I hope that would be the approach of the DFA and that it just lets the DND do its job on the ground without making any unnecessary scandal when there is still none,” he said.
“We are becoming alarmist when that is not necessary,” he added.
Trillanes said the DFA should quietly confirm any foreign incursions in Philippine territory without broadcasting it to the world.
In his time, he said, “our Navy boarded and immediately searched ships that (entered) the country’s territory and you didn’t need to announce that.”
He said the Philippines then took actions to assert its authority over the disputed territories, “without declaring war or agitating anybody.”
Now, he said, “we could put our map (including the disputed territories) on our money. If they can do that, we could do the same,” he said, referring to China’s inclusion of contested islands on maps on its passport.
“The bottom line is to resolve the dispute diplomatically so as not to agitate and reach a point that we cannot back away from,” Trillanes said.
He said that when he was negotiating with the Chinese last year, he was able to correct the shortcomings of the Filipino officials who were formally negotiating with Beijing over the standoff in the West Philippine Sea.
“Tensions really heated up then because there were too many boats there and, only a few notches more, there could have been a fire-fight,” he said.
“We believe we were able to achieve what we were ordered to do, which was to lessen the tension. That was our only mission,” he added.
Trillanes said a third party should eventually help resolve the territorial dispute because neither country will budge.
“On China’s side or the Philippines’ side, no one is going to agree to give up (territory) so it should be resolved by a third party,” he said.