Palace: Duterte, Enrile to discuss Trillanes, Del Rosario roles in Scarborough mess

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2021 03:14 PM | Updated as of May 17 2021 03:47 PM

Palace: Duterte, Enrile to discuss Trillanes, Del Rosario roles in Scarborough mess 1
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile during their meeting at Malacañan Palace on March 1, 2017. Richard Madelo, Malacanang Photo/File

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte and former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday will discuss China's seizure of Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said. 

In particular, the pair will tackle the roles of former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario in the 2012 loss of Scarborough, during Duterte's weekly taped speech Talk to the People, said his Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Hndi po ganitong kainit ang West philippine Sea, kung hindi po dito sa pangyayari ng Scarborough," Roque said in a press briefing. 

"Kinakailangan naman [masagot] para malaman ng tao ang kasaysayan, sino ang dahilan kung bakit nawala sa atin ang Scarborough Shoal."

(The issue on the West Philippine Sea would not have been this heated if not for the Scarborough incident. We should answer who was the reason we lost Scarborough Shoal so that people would know history.) 

Duterte last week invited Enrile to a dialogue at Malacañan because "he was there right at the beginning." 

"Sa kaniya ako makinig, sa kaniya ako bilib sa utak at pag-intindi nitong problema, itong ating West Philippine Sea." 

(I will listen to him because I admire his mind, his understanding of this problem, our West Philippine Sea.)
 
The President did not say what prompted him to consult Enrile, 97, a former Senate president and Defense chief during the Marcos administration.

In 2012, Enrile questioned Trillanes' backdoor negotiations with Chinese officials about the waterway. 

Trillanes is a vocal critic of Duterte. The former lawmaker said last week he was eyeing the presidency in 2022. 

On Saturday, he said Duterte keeps on reviving the Scarborough Shoal issue to divert the attention of the public.

In March, Trillanes said that after his negotiations with China for three months over the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, the number of Chinese ships in the area reduced from "80-100, to just three, all of which were positioned outside the shoal."

Trillanes said he was designated by President Benigno Aquino III in May 2012 as backchannel negotiator at the height of the standoff, and "the issue of sovereignty WAS NOT COVERED and WAS NEVER DISCUSSED." 

"I WAS ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH MY MISSION. Looking back, I can proudly say that this is probably THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT in my career as a public servant. An invasion or an armed conflict with a regional power was averted through those backchannel talks," Trillanes said on his Facebook account.

"Eventually, the refusal of China to remove the remaining 3 ships forced the hand of PNoy (Aquino) to file the arbitration case, which we eventually won," he added.

The Scarborough Shoal, located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, is one of the region's richest fishing grounds and a flashpoint between the two countries, which have rival claims.
     
Duterte earlier blamed Del Rosario, who served under the previous administration for the withdrawal of Philippine ships from Scarborough, while Chinese ships remained there. 

Del Rosario said Beijing "deceitfully breached" an agreement for both sides to pull back from Scarborough to end the standoff that ignited after the Philippines sought to arrest Chinese poachers. 

After the standoff, Del Rosario pursued an arbitral case against China. 

Shortly after Duterte took office in the 2016, a United Nations-backed court ruled in favor of Manila and junked Beijing's sweeping claims to the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea. 

Almost a decade after the standoff, Chinese vessels continue to encroach into the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the waterway. 

Duterte recently likened to a piece of "paper" the landmark arbitration award. Roque said there is no enforcement mechanism that would make Beijing follow the ruling. 

Del Rosario and retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said Duterte "unfortunately" set aside the arbitration ruling in exchange for up to $24 billion in Chinese investment and aid pledges. 

Duterte had said he "never asked for anything" from China. 

"I was asking [for] friendship, that was all," he said. 

"Kung ako'y nagsisinungaling, mag-resign ako bukas kaagad," he added. (If I am lying, I will resign immediately tomorrow.)

Last week, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said that an average of four Chinese Coast Guard vessels were monitored sailing at Scarborough Shoal from May 3 to 10, apart from other Chinese vessels scattered across other parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Video courtesy of PTV