PBBM ‘calm, not combative’ in Shangri-La dialogue − Jinggoy

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said President Marcos was calm and not combative when he was at the 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Estrada said this during the Kapihan sa Senado on Tuesday, June 4, after he was asked if China will be more intense and hostile in its activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) following the Shangri-La Dialogue.

“That has to be seen,” he said.

Estrada said he was present when Marcos made history as the first Philippine leader to deliver a keynote address to open the 21st edition of the IISS.

“I was listening to his almost an hour speech and he covered everything. Even the three questions propounded to him, he answered it very well, he was not combative,” Estrada said.

“Kasi may isang Chinese official na nagtanong, siyempre medyo palaban yung tanong (There was this Chinese official who asked, and the question was very critical) and the President answered it calmly, hindi siya combative,” he added.

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Regarding the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea, he said that China’s bullying is growing more severe and but filing a diplomatic protest is the Philippines’ only remaining option instead of plunging into a war with China. 

General Romeo Brawner Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently disclosed that China Cost Guard (CCG) personnel came as close as five to 10 meters from BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded Philippine Navy (PN) vessel which serves as an AFP outpost in the contested Ayungin Shoal, to seize one of the four food packages meant for the troops during a resupply mission.

The resupply mission was held on May 19 via airdrop method. After finding out that the packages contained food, the CCG threw it back into the water.

Prior to the confrontation, Brawner said the CCG also blocked a medical evacuation (medevac) of a Fiipino trooper who fell ill while onboard BRP Sierra Madre.

“For me that is totally unacceptable,” Estrada said.

In a statement, he called it a “callous act” that must be met with the utmost condemnation by the government and the international community.

“As I call upon our government to continue asserting our sovereignty and safeguard the welfare of our soldiers stationed at the Ayungin Shoal, I urge our international allies to stand with the Philippines in condemning in the strongest terms the recent actions of the China Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Estrada mentioned that the Philippines has consistently sought peaceful and diplomatic means to address the territorial disputes and uphold the rule of law. The reported seizure and dumping overboard of food and other supplies meant for our troops as well as the purported obstruction of a medical evacuation operation for ailing Filipino soldiers are “callous acts” that should not be tolerated.  

“We should pursue all necessary measures to demand accountability for the latest acts by the CCG. Our soldiers deserve our unwavering support. Their bravery, dedication, and sacrifices should not be in vain and we must ensure that justice prevails,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino echoed Estrada’s statement, saying that a diplomatic protest must be filed.

He also said that China is doing these actions out of desperation following the success of President Marcos’ participation in the Shangri-La Dialogue.

“Nakikita yung desperateness nila (China) ngayon dahil maliwanag na talagang viniviolate nila ang lahat ng umiiral batas pandaigdigan (We can see how desperate China is right now because they are clearly violating all international laws in place),” he said.

Even the President himself believes that China is “punishing” the Philippines through their recent aggressive actions in the WPS due to his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Tolentino believes that what China did is indeed a form of provocation.