Palace: No ‘bickering’ between DFA chief, senator-A A +A
Thursday, September 20, 2012
MANILA -- Malacanang denied Wednesday the alleged bickering between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, President Benigno Aquino III's backroom negotiator to China.
"There are no disagreements between Senator Trillanes and Secretary del Rosario. They have been asked by the President to refrain from making any further comments," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing at the Palace.
In an Inquirer report on Wednesday, Trillanes accused del Rosario, a veteran diplomat, of being ineffective and a "war freak."
In the same report, the senator criticized del Rosario's way of dealing with the country's protracted dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.
But Lacierda, in the middle of the press briefing Wednesday, read a text message supposedly coming from Trillanes, dismissing the alleged disagreement between him and del Rosario.
"I would like to clarify that SFA [Secretary of Foreign Affairs] and I have no disagreements and I will state that PNoy [Aquino] through the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] is the sole source of our foreign policy," the senator's message read.
"I was merely tasked to help out deescalate the tension in Panatag and the improved situation right now is the result of a collective effort of everyone involved. But, ultimately, it was President Aquino who was calling the shots," added Trillanes, the leader of the Magdalo group behind the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
Lacierda said Trillanes approached the President on the lingering territorial dispute with China, saying "there's a way forward to hold these things."
"The purpose of the President is really to keep all the options open," he said.
The Palace official said "it seems like there were minor successes coming from the back channeling of Senator Trillanes."
Trillanes claimed that backchannel talks have enabled the country to normalize relations with China, while del Rosario said it "is doing more harm than good."
Lacierda said the President already spoke to del Rosario on the matter and is also planning to talk to Trillanes.
The Palace official said that despite the alleged controversy, del Rosario still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.
Lacierda even defended the Foreign Affairs official on accusations of supposedly protecting the interest of his former boss, businessman Manny Pangilinan, as reason for not pursuing peaceful settlement with China, and issues of being a former ambassador to Washington.
"We have taken a position which says that those resources that are found within our exclusive economic zone are our sovereign rights, and therefore, it is not true that Secretary del Rosario sought to promote the interest of a businessman," said Lacierda.
Pangilinan owns Forum Energy, which acquired the exploratory rights to the Recto Bank off Palawan, which is said to be the country's largest gas find and part of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.
"The secretary of Foreign Affairs gets his marching orders from the President. The position taken by the secretary of Foreign Affairs is also the same position taken by the President. So, it is irrelevant how China views Secretary del Rosario because the chief policymaker is the President," Lacierda said.
He also dismissed insinuations questioning del Rosario's efficiency in dealing with the territorial row with China because the latter served as ambassador to Washington in the past.
"Whether the accusation that Secretary Del Rosario is an American boy is totally not true and irrelevant to the issue because the chief policymaker is the President," Lacierda said.
Del Rosario, meanwhile, issued a brief statement on Wednesday, stressing that there should be no other entity to deal with diplomatic missions, including negotiating with China, other than the DFA.
The senior Cabinet official said the DFA is working under the orders of the President as it is mandated to do.
"The DFA executes the foreign policy of the President," said del Rosario, adding there must be one policy and one team in promoting "our national interest in the West Philippine Sea."
The DFA chief said the agency remains confident of its capability to do its mandated tasks.
"We will not dignify those who are working to divide us," del Rosario said.
Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon, meantime, said back channel talks are a "normal process."
Biazon, however, pointed out that Trillanes should have been under the supervision of the DFA, the proper authority to handle the Philippines' territorial dispute with China.
"It's normally done behind the scenes. You do not make it public," Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces, told reporters in an ambush interview.
Cibac party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna, a member of the House committee on foreign affairs, also sees no problem with Trillanes negotiating in behalf of the Philippines.
Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello, for his part, said the DFA chief should be the only Cabinet official managing the country's foreign policy.
"Senator Trillanes may have his own views and he should express them but he should not serve as an alternative foreign policy arm or project himself as such," he said. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/HDT/Sunnex)