Aquino, Cayetano clash over transparency in WPS

Aquino, Cayetano clash over transparency in WPS
By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Former president Benigno Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday clashed over the issue of transparency in the two administrations’ dealings with China regarding the West Philippine Sea.

Cayetano snapped back at Aquino and suggested the former chief executive’s politics should be as “transparent” as his hair.

“While we both lost some of our hair, your administration lost control of Scarborough and a great opportunity to expand tourism, infrastructure and agriculture,” he said in an open letter posted on his social media page.

“We also lost many opportunities for cooperation in fields like science and technology, protection of the environment, among others, all because of the approach you, together with former Sec. del Rosario and Senator Trillanes, chose to adopt and implement,” he added.

But rather than debate on whose administration was more transparent on the WPS issue, Cayetano said Aquino should just answer how the country lost control of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

The official also raised the issue of the backchannel talks of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV with Beijing, whom he said made 16 trips to China as Aquino’s emissary.

“Sen. Trillanes had refused to reveal the purpose and nature of his trips when asked during a Senate session by then Sen. Enrile. Instead he walked out and invoked presidential prerogative so he would not be compelled to respond,” he said.

He also asked what was the commitment of the United States during the Aquino administration on the territorial row, seeking more details on what was discussed between him and former President Barack Obama.

“What did you discuss with President Obama? He reportedly affirmed to Japan that the mutual defense treaty will be put into action if the Senkaku islands are threatened. Did Mr. Obama tell you that the US does not get involved with territorial disputes like in the WPS?” Cayetano asked.

Of the total 11 points he raised, Cayetano also sought Aquino’s reply on their supposed plans for the oil and gas exploration in the WPS.

Cayetano dared Aquino for an early response to prove if “transparency is important (to him as he) claim.”

A few hours later, Aquino shot back at Cayetano, saying bulk of the answers to the questions can be found via a simple search on the internet.

“What could not be gleaned from a mere review of the record and the various media reports are the details concerning the very thinking behind our actions: Why we did, how we did it, and all the political and cultural realities that led to our decision to bring our case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)–the results of which truly changed the equation,” Aquino said.

“We, a small nation, were able to clarify and assert the rights of all before a superpower, China,” he said.

Aquino added that responding to all the points Cayetano raised would be akin to presenting China a “gold mine of information and intelligence—a playbook, so to speak—on our country and our very strategy.”

“That would make us predictable. I believe that would indeed make your life, and our country’s position, more difficult should a similar situation arise down the line,” he said.

Aquino noted that he has done his part on being constructive and putting forward his views on the issue.

“Might I state that, in the only NSC (National Security Council) meeting that I was invited to under the watch of President Duterte, I cautioned everyone about becoming too close with Beijing.” (PNA)

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