Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation to discuss how the Philippines lost control of one of its territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to China, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Enrile will speak about the “history” behind China’s takeover of Scarborough Shoal, as well as the supposed backdoor negotiations of former senator Antonio Trillanes IV with the Chinese government.
“ Later tonight, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile will join the talk to the people. Just like what the President had said, former senator Enrile was there right at the beginning,” Roque said in Filipino in a Palace press briefing.
He said the public deserved to know the role played by Trillanes and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario role on the Philippines’ loss of possession of the Scarborough Shoal.
Roque said it is important to tackle the 2012 standoff between the Philippine and Chinese maritime forces in Scarborough Shoal because the event was responsible for escalating the tension among claimant countries in the WPS.
“The loss of Scarborough Shoal was the trigger of the conflict in the West Philippine Sea that was previously serene,” he added in Filipino.
Roque said Duterte also wanted to listen to Enrile’s insights because he is the longest-serving Secretary of National Defense. Enrile was appointed defense minister in 1970 during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos until he joined the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that removed Marcos from power.
He said Presidential Decree No. 1596 that declared Kalayaan Island Group as part of the Philippines was signed during the Marcos administration.
“Although the issue of the West Philippine Sea is hot right now, the West Philippine Sea would not be as hot as it is in the case of Scarborough. It is necessary for people to know what history really is, who is the reason why we lost the Scarborough Shoal and why the issue of the West Philippine Sea has become so hot today,” he added in Filipino.
In 2012, Enrile raised questions about the backdoor negotiations by Trillanes with Chinese officials on the sea dispute.
He also bared the contents of the notes written by then Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady in a meeting with Trillanes.
Duterte sought Enrile’s advice regarding the WPS disputes, saying the former lawmaker has a deeper understanding of territorial issues surrounding the contested waters.
“I would no longer say anything. I would just listen to him because he was there right at the beginning,” Duterte said partly in Filipino.
Duterte had repeatedly blamed the past administration for withdrawing Philippine vessels from Scarborough Shoal to ease the standoff upon alleged advice of the US. Manila pulled out its ships but China stayed and eventually took possession of the territory.He also put China on notice that Philippine vessels would stay put in WPS. SOVEREIGNPH