‘Check your facts:’ Trillanes disputes Enrile claims on 2012 back-channel talks with China

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Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines — Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has disputed claims thrown by former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile against him over his role as the country’s back-channel negotiator between the Philippines and China during the 2012 standoff at Scarborough Shoal.

“Why did PNoy [former President Benigno Aquino III] appoint me as backchannel negotiator? Because he found me trustworthy unlike Enrile,” Trillanes said in a tweet late Monday.

“Wag nyo ibahin ang usapan, wala sa Scarborough ang problema. Nalutas na ni PNoy yun. Wala ng mga barko ng China sa loob nun. Wala ring reclamation dun. Nasa Spratlys ngayon ang problema na ayaw harapin ni [D]uterte,” he added.

(Don’t change the topic, the problem is not in Scarborough. It was already solved by PNoy. No more Chinese ships within that area. Also, there is no reclamation there. The problem now is in the Spratlys that Duterte doesn’t want to face.)

On Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte and Enrile, who the former invited as a guest, questioned Trillanes’ role in negotiations between the two countries

Enrile also said that Trillanes had bypassed Manila’s ambassador to China at the time and then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in his back-channeling with China.

But Trillanes said Enrile should “check [his] facts],” noting that then Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady arrived in Beijing as he was wrapping up backchannel meetings.

“Why did I bypass Amb. Brady? Check your facts Mr. Enrile,” he said.

“Amb. [Sonia] Brady first went to Beijing in early August or late July when I was wrapping up the backchannel talks. She was never present at any backchannel meeting from May to July,” Trillanes added.

“Upon her arrival, at the first instance, I briefed her on the whole talks at the Ph Embassy WITH NO CHINESE PRESENT. That was the only time I met her. After that briefing, I concluded the backchannel talks,” he further said.

The Scarborough Shoal incident began in April 2012, when the Philippine Navy tried to apprehend Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal but were blocked by Chinese marine surveillance ships.

This incident was put into light in recent days as President Rodrigo Duterte received criticisms for his recent remarks on Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing.

Duterte, who has been criticized for his warm stance with China, has repeatedly asserted that the Philippines would not go to war with China over the maritime dispute.

But last week, the President said the Philippines would not withdraw its assets from the West Philippine Sea while still insisting he had no intention of quarreling with China because the Philippines owes it a “debt of gratitude.”

The President also recently downplayed Manila’s historic victory in 2016, when the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognize.

JPV

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