Jinggoy denies Roque claim on Sierra Madre ‘deal’

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — It was “unacceptable” for former presidential spokesman Harry Roque to claim that former president Joseph Estrada made a deal with Beijing to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal, according to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

“I once asserted in a privilege speech that there was no agreement or promise that my father, former president Joseph Estrada, made to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal and this was further confirmed by then defense and security officials such as former defense secretary Orlando Mercado,” Estrada, a son of the former president, said.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, and utterly unacceptable for former presidential spokesman Harry Roque to make such baseless claims when he’s not even privy to such information,” Estrada added.

Roque’s statement, Estrada said, “only spread confusion and doubts about the Philippine integrity and ability to fight for the security of the country” in the face of “worsening pressure and bullying of China.”

“As I pointed out in my privilege speech last August, how is it possible that there was a period of relative ‘peace’ in the West Philippine Sea during the nine-year Arroyo administration? The administration that succeeded my father was conspicuously ‘silent’ and did not take any steps to claim our territorial rights concerning the West Philippine Sea,” he pointed out.

“Amid all these pronouncements, it’s praiseworthy that the Marcos administration is taking concrete actions to protect our sovereign rights and territorial integrity. Any efforts made to address this ongoing and escalating aggression by China should be supported and encouraged,” he said.

“We must remain firm and united in defending our sovereignty, and in safeguarding our maritime territories for the benefit of present and future generations,” Estrada said.

Estrada has initiated a Senate investigation on allegations of disinformation in the issue of the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China, particularly the latter’s growing aggressiveness in asserting its illegal claims in the West Philippines.

Last week, the Chinese coast guard – using water cannons – tried to prevent a Filipino civilian boat from delivering supplies to a military outpost on the Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. The attack injured several Filipinos and caused damage to their vessel.