Trillanes airs side on talks with China
‘PNoy called the shots on negotiations’
'Brady's notes were Enrile's notes'
MANILA – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday revealed the extent of his backchannel negotiations with Chinese officials, saying he received his instructions directly from President Aquino himself.
Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Trillanes said he was tapped by President Aquino to help de-escalate the tension in Scarborough Shoal from May to July because he knew several officials in the Chinese politburo.
He said Malacañang paid for his trips to Beijing even as the Department of Foreign Affairs conducted their own negotiations with Chinese officials.
In one meeting, he said Chinese officials asked him about removing Philippine fishing boats in Scarborough Shoal.
“[The Chinese] were asking me to have the fishing vessels removed from the shoal. I told them we do not have any means to communicate to fishing boats. Do you want our Coast Guard vessels to come in and get them? No, they don’t want to. I explained to them our fishermen are all over the place and we cannot stop anybody or prohibit everybody from entering Scarborough Shoal so you will have to deal with it,” he said.
Trillanes denied that he told Chinese officials that the Philippines could not protect its own coastline. He said the proper context of his statement is that Chinese officials should accept and tolerate Philippine fishermen in disputed waters “because we cannot prohibit our fishermen…the whole coastline of Western Luzon from entering Scarborough.”
“I was pushing for the interests of our country by letting certain exceptions from that mutual fishing ban,” he said.
In another instance, he said the President called him up before his official trip to the United Kingdom last June 4 to ask if the senator could help negotiate the pullout of 2 Chinese ships in Scarborough Shoal.
This was after the Philippines had already pulled out its own vessels from the shoal.
“On the day the President was about to leave for UK, he called me up and told me, ‘Sonny, pa-tulong dahil meron yung barko ng China nasa loob pa rin when the agreement is simultaneous, may Agreement daw with Washington, according to the DFA, na simultaneous na lalabas.’ I asked him ‘If it was simultaneous, bakit nauna tayo?’ Anyway, it’s there. I was given the task of mediating to have those 2 ships removed, and they did through the backchannel negotiations,” he said.
Slighted by del Rosario
Trillanes said he did his work as backchannel negotiator without fanfare even as Chinese ships in disputed waters dropped from 100 to 3 in recent months.
He admitted, however, that he felt slighted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario when the latter said that backchannel negotiations did more harm than good in the issue.
“I explained that to the President that I was just slighted when that statement was given that I was doing more harm than good but it’s over now. We are going to convey the same message so it is but natural to be offended and slighted because in my view, I’ve done my job for the country. I didn’t sell out the country. The country is intact. The territorial integrity is intact. We have defused the tension and everybody is moving on. We don’t have that problem anymore,” he said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.
He also said he cannot be gagged by Malacañang as long as he stays on the message about the negotiations with China.
“I can’t be gagged. I am a senator of the republic. My persona now is not as the envoy of the president but as a senator of the republic so I cannot be gagged. But I talked with the president and we agreed on a common message so that we won’t appear to be fighting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President has remained silent on the issue since he wants to talk to Trillanes and del Rosario first before speaking to the media.
He said the President requested both del Rosario and Trillanes to refrain from making further statements.
"The position taken by Senator Trillanes is that he is a senator of the republic. We respect that but we want to - the reason why the president is not making any statements is precisely to settle these things and clear the air," he said.
"Does it help solve the issue if a party keeps on talking? That is the reason why the President has asked both parties to refrain from making any statements."
Trillanes wants Brady notes released
Meanwhile, Trillanes refused to answer some of the allegations being leveled by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that the latter allegedly based on the notes of Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Sonia Brady.
Trillanes urged Enrile to reveal the actual Brady notes, not his own speech, to the media.
He said he is very willing to see the actual Brady notes released to the public.
“Those are not the Brady notes. Those are Enrile’s notes. That is why the media must demand from Senator Enrile. You give us a copy of the original notes. I am willing to get it out in the open… Definitely, I am pretty sure it is not [the original]. I challenge him to get it out so you can read for yourself what the contents are,” he said.
He also noted that Enrile’s speech before the Senate was prepared by his speechwriters.
“It is not the first time that Enrile has faked anything. Remember, he faked his ambush," he said, referring to the staged ambush on Enrile before the 1972 declaration of martial law.
Meanwhile, Lacierda refused to comment on the Brady notes, saying he does not have a copy of the document.
He said the President has not spoken to Enrile about the issue.