China backdoor talks cause for concern: analyst
MANILA, Philippines – The role of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV as a backdoor negotiator of the Philippines with China on the Scarborough Shoal dispute is a cause for concern, a political analyst said on Wednesday.
Dr. Clarita Carlos, executive director of the Center for Political and Democratic Reforms, questioned Trillanes’ intentions even if he was given the authority to speak for the country.
“Backchanneling can be done in many ways. You need not be somebody in the foreign affairs department, you may be a senator, you may be someone like me. We’re meeting with our counterparts in China. We articulate our views but they are our views and not the views of the Republic of the Philippines, that is the main difference,” Carlos told ANC’s “Prime Time.”
Trillanes earlier said his talks with Chinese officials were conducted with the approval of the President.
But Carlos believes that although the senator was tasked to be a backdoor negotiator, he “was also given a guideline on what his limits are on what he is going to talk about.”
“The talks should be exploratory in nature, he cannot commit the Republic of the Philippines,” said Carlos.
Trillanes said on Thursday the situation at the West Philippine Sea has “vastly improved” ever since he negotiated with China and the relationship between the two nations has improved.
Better strategic plan
Despite Trillanes’ statements, Carlos believes that the issue of backdoor negotiations should not be “water under the bridge,” especially since the backchanneling efforts reportedly did not sit well with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Carlos said the government should be more unified in its efforts to resolve the dispute at the Scarborough Shoal.
“It should be a source of concern if all these had happened, it should be a lesson to us that let’s be more prudent, let the relevant actors come together and let us really think strategically about this issue. We cannot be all over the place, this is a very delicate matter,” said Carlos.
Carlos also took offense that the academe was not consulted in developing solutions for the diplomatic issue.
She said the government should have a better strategic plan in resolving the issue.
“Why is it that we are not being asked about these things? There are many China-watchers in various universities, not only in UP, why aren’t we harnessing our collective views in regard to this,” Carlos said.
“Let the conversation be all around so that we are not shooting here, there and everywhere and, you know, the Chinese are just laughing at us,” she added.