MANILA, Philippines — Insisting that the Duterte administration has always been transparent on its foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that former President Benigno Aquino III was misinformed on the West Philippine Sea issue.
Aquino has been calling on the Duterte administration to be more transparent on its negotiations with China on the disputed waters.
The department has, however, been tight-lipped about how it has been dealing with incidents in the South China Sea, part of which is within Manila’s exclusive economic zone and is called the West Philippine Sea. “At the right time, we will prove you wrong because nothing is secret forever,” Cayetano said in May to defend the perceived secrecy.
“On the contrary, maybe President Aquino should ask Secretary (Albert) Del Rosario: ‘Were you transparent with me?” Cayetano told reporters Tuesday in his typical rhetorical style when responding to criticism.
The Foreign Affairs chief claimed that there are no complete records on who ordered Philippine ships to leave the Scaborough Shoal during a standoff in 2012.
“How did we leave Scarborough? Do any of you know? Was it really Sen. (Antonio) Trillanes who said leave or don’t leave? Was it really Foreign Secretary Del Rosario who said (leave)?” the Foreign Affairs secretary said.
Under a deal mediated by the United States in 2012, the Philippines and China agreed to withdraw their forces from the shoal until a deal over ownership was finalized but only Manila complied with the deal.
The Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar was pulled out of the Scarborough Shoal on April 12, 2012 when Chinese civilian ships entered the area. The Navy said that the ship was withdrawn to replenish fuel and good provisions.
“I have some of the reports but it’s not complete. It was only stated there, ‘Let’s wait for the text of Sen. Trillanes, the president said and then the ship was gone… They did not complete the records, they did not tell us,” Cayetano said.