MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - President Aquino turned the tables on China and dismissed calls from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the Philippines to stop issuing provocative statements. He instead urged China to “balance” its statements with the “truth.”
“Parang hindi klaro sa akin [kung] anong provocative statements ang sinasabi ng Pilipinas, kung anong mga opisyal ng Pilipinas. Pero batid natin [na] napakaraming sinasabi mula doon sa kabilang panig. So baka dapat basahin ang mga nakasulat sa kanila at with all due respect, baka dapat balansehin ‘yung sinasabi nila sa katotohanan,” Aquino told reporters when asked to comment on the call of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Aquino said that had China sent home its vessels, tensions over the Scarborough Shoal would have been over.
He noted that it has been three weeks since Philippine vessels have left the area.
“Halos tatlong linggo na po mula nung bumalik ‘yung ating Coast Guard vessels. So kung kanilang vessels ay pinauwi na rin, lalo na ‘yung government vessels, wala na hong issue. So sino ho kaya ang nagpapatagal ng issue d’yan po sa Panatag Shoal o sa Bajo de Masinloc?” Aquino said.
China urged the “parties concerned do things conducive to regional peace and stability” after Reuters reported that President Aquino had said in an interview that he might ask the United States to send its surveillance planes to help the Philippines monitor the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
Aquino clarified that there is no definite decision yet on this but did not rule out the possibility of asking the United States for help in increasing the Philippines’ “situational awareness” in the disputed areas.
He said that the Philippines’ capabilities are limited with the Coast Guard and Navy assets currently doing the surveillance.
“Alam mo nagkamali ‘yung mga nag-interview sa akin noong isang araw. Pumasok siya, naniniwala siya may request na tayong ganun e. So hindi ko maintindihan, if you go through the transcript of the interview, sabi ko, ‘We might.’ ‘Yung dun e, bigla na lang nagkaroon ng request, o bigla na lang nagkaroon ng overflight. I-correct lang natin, America is a treaty ally, meron tayong kakulangan, meron silang kapasidad. Kung saka-sakaling kukulangin ang ating kapasidad, palagay ko ay pwede naman tayo lumapit sa kanila para madagdadagan ‘yung tinatawag na situational awareness natin lalo na dito sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Aquino on Thursday presided over a full Cabinet meeting at the Palace to discuss the country's territorial dispute with China.
The meeting focused on Philippine-China relations, as well as the National Tourism Development Plan.
Aside from members of the Cabinet, also seen in the gathering were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Antonio Trillanes, and Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady.
“Maraming schools of thought kasi on how to handle and how to deal with the Chinese. So we will be getting, in effect, a discussion on the opposite points on view on what is the best approach to settle this issue,” Aquino said prior to the meeting.
Asked if a decision would be made after the meeting on whether Philippine vessels would be redeployed back to Scarborough Shoal, Aquino said, “That will be of course dependent on the weather.”