Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano proposed Saturday that the government and its critics discuss the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute in private.
Cayetano warned that the blame game between the current administration and its critics was closely being observed by other claimants in the region, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and China.
“We’re wrong for discussing our strategy in public. Whenever we’re fighting in public, the other claimants are listening to us,” Cayetano told a radio interview.
Cayetano, who was Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2017 to 2019, suggested that his successor Teodoro Locsin Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV pursue a private conversation on the WPS.
However, Trillanes on Saturday dismissed as another “jet ski scam” President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest statement towards China that he would not withdraw Philippine ships from the West Philippine Sea “even if you kill me.”
“Naku, jet ski scam na naman ‘yan. Ewan ko lang kung magpapaloko pa mga Pilipino d’yan,” Trillanes said.
Duterte had said in a taped message aired Friday that he would not withdraw the two ships roving around Kalayaan Islands and Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea, as he addressed China, which has continued incursions in the area.
Carpio and del Rosario were both part of the delegation that represented the Philippines in the controversial 2013 arbitration case against China over conflicting territorial claims in the WPS.
Duterte and Carpio challenged each other early last week to a public debate on the sea issue, but Cayetano said the two camps should instead talk to each other in private.
“They should discuss what they know about the West Philippine Sea and what strategy we should employ. And then they should discuss which pieces of information can be disclosed to the public so that our strategy will not be ruined,” said Cayetano.
At the same time, the former Speaker blasted the “fake news” being circulated by critics about the country’s losses in the West Philippine Sea.
He said contrary to claims by critics, access to the disputed waters has become easier and safer for Filipino fisherfolk under the Duterte administration.
“During the Aquino administration, our fisherfolk couldn’t fish around Scarborough Shoal. Now, we can fish there because of the good relations between the Philippines and China,” Cayetano said.