SENATOR Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes recently told Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles, California that the Philippines is not helpless against the relentless incursions of China into our territories.
During a town hall meeting organized by the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) at the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), the Philippine senator said the administration of Rodrigo Duterte has a lot of options to pursue to keep the Chinese at bay.
Trillanes said there is nothing wrong with having friendly relations with China but “there should be a line,” adding that the government should have filed diplomatic protests whenever it saw its territorial jurisdiction are violated.
“Kasi kapag hindi eh, puwedeng tingnan ito na parang sumusuko ka,” Trillanes explained.
Trillanes then cited the stand off between Japan and China in another case of territorial dispute involving some islands close to both countries wherein the Japanese navy worked to defend their territory.
“Wala namang giyera na nangyari,” Trillanes recalled.
At the same time, the former coup plotter-turned senator said the Philippines should simultaneously pursue vigorously the modernization program of the Philippine armed forces.
Trillanes also took the opportunity to raise his concern over the alleged anomalous interference of Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go on the P15 billion-worth project to acquire warships.
He predicted that the defensive capability of the vessels to be bought by the Philippine Navy would be weakened if the project goes into another direction.
Go denied that he has intervened in the procurement process of the Philippine Navy’s controversial selection of the weapons system supplier for the P15.7-billion frigate program.
“I have not intervened in the procurement of DND of its computer system for its ships. I have not participated nor intervened, directly or indirectly, in the transactions of DND. Further, I even have no information nor knowledge of the said transaction,” Go said in a statement to the Philippine media.
In another moment during the forum, Trillanes provided more details about his role as an emissary to back channel talks with China during the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Trillanes said a group of businessmen were initially tapped for the backdoor negotiations but they failed to solve the crisis brought about by the presence of 80 Chinese ships in and around the Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines sent three Coast Guard vessels to the area which resulted in a stand off.
Back channel negotiations, Trillanes said, are legal options when two nations have reached an impasse in resolving a dispute as they offer face-saving solutions for officials of countries.
“Dumating na po sa point na nagkakasahan na ng baril ‘yung personnel ng ating Coast Guard at ‘yung China,” Trillanes recalled.
Trillanes claimed that as an emissary, he was able to oblige his counterparts to show confidence building measures, particularly the release of the Philippine banana shipment that were then being held at the China port and the renegotiation of the North Rail loan.
China, for its part, only asked the Philippines to tone down its rhetoric regarding the territorial dispute between the two nations.
The Chinese government, Trillanes claimed, also moved out most of its ships from the Scarborough shoal, leaving only a contingent of three navy vessels.
Trillanes added that he was sure that he will be vindicated when the time comes that the information regarding the incident are eventually declassified.
The solon was apparently referring to accusations that he conducted actions that were “treasonous” when he was acting as an emissary during the said back channel talks with Chinese officials.