Gibo on PH ‘promise’ to remove BRP Sierra Madre: ‘I’m not aware of any’
ISABELA, Philippines — Philippines did not enter into any agreement with China wherein Philippines would remove the grounded tank landing ship BRP Sierra Madre from West Philippine Sea (WPS).
This is the statement of Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in a chance interview with reporters in Gamu, Isabela.
Teodoro is reacting to reports that such a commitment was sealed between the two countries a long time ago.
Before his current post, he was also the DND chief from August 2007 to November 2009.
“Wala akong alam na supposed agreement na yan. Wala akong alam na agreement sa Ayungin na aalisin ang barko,” Teodoro said.
(I don’t know about any of that supposed agreement. I have no knowledge about an agreement on Ayungin that the ship will be removed.)
“Maglalagay ka ng barko diyan na Philippine vessel. ‘Di mo nga dini-deregister, pagkatapos aalisin mo?” Teodoro wondered aloud as he expressed the irony of the situation.
(You put a ship there that is a Philippine vessel. You don’t deregister it, and, after that, you will remove it?)
Nevertheless, if any such promise was made in the past, the Defense chief said this alleged accord is already considered revoked.
“At saka si Presidente na ang nagsabi, kung meron mang agreement na hindi namin alam — rescinded,” he stressed.
(The President himself said, it there is an agreement that we are not aware of – it is rescinded.)
For his part, former DND Secretary Orlando Mercado said he was also not aware of any Philippine commitment made to China to have BRP Sierra Madre pulled out from Ayungin Shoal.
Mercado served in DND under the administration of former President Joseph Estrada.
Columnist Rigoberto Tiglao had claimed it was Estrada who committed to remove the ship.
This remark was refuted by Senator JV Ejercito, the former president’s son.
BRP Sierra Madre is a commissioned Philippine Navy vessel which has hosted a small contingent of military personnel in Ayungin Shoal since 1999.
It was purposely made aground by the Estrada administration.
It serves as an outpost that asserts Philippines’ claim in WPS.
The ship recently hogged the headlines after a China Coast Guard vessel fired a water cannon at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) boat and a supply ship.
The supply ship was delivering food, water, fuel and other supplies to BRP Sierra Madre.
Ayungin Shoal is a low-tide elevation about 194 kilometers off Palawan that is well within Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.