Bishops against asking help from US in shoal dispute
MANILA, Philippines—An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Friday warned the government against asking help from the United States and other countries in settling the latest dispute with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, also chair of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, said things will become more complicated if the Philippine government allowed the US or any other country to meddle in the conflict.
“The problem will become more complicated if countries that don’t even have a claim on the shoal will intervene,” said Iñiguez over Church-run Radio Veritas Friday.
The prelate also believed that diplomacy was still the best option to resolve the conflict. “We should review our claim to the island and if it is proven that it is ours, then we have the right to stand up for our claim,” said Iñiguez.
“I also believe that diplomacy is still the effective way to address the problem … that’s the nature of international policy-to use diplomacy to avoid trouble,” the bishop said.
The CBCP official issued the comment after it was reported that Senator Gregorio Honasan was urging the US to make an official statement on the matter.
“So what is the use of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement for? We have a problem in Scarborough, how will you help us? Will you help us? Otherwise, what is the treaty for?” Honasan was quoted as saying the other day.
The senator also said that the Philippines’ other allies—such as Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)—must also be informed of the situation in the shoal, noting that the issue was not merely regional but global in nature.
The Philippine Navy withdrew on Thursday morning its largest warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, as part of the country’s effort to defuse tension brewing on the shoal, which started on Sunday after a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels in a lagoon of the resource-rich shoal.