Aquino to execs: Let’s not telegraph our punches
12:02 am | Sunday, July 8th, 2012
Don’t telegraph our punches.
That sums up the instructions that President Benigno Aquino III gave to his officials on Thursday concerning the government’s plans and decisions involving the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, however, refused to go into details because the “framework” to deal with an increasingly aggressive China was to be kept a secret, for now, as ordered by the President.
The framework has drawn support from two members of the House of Representatives.
And Malacañang officials hope the people, too, will support the President’s decision to keep the government’s West Philippine Sea plans secret.
One of the officials, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Saturday described the actions that would be taken as “delicate.”
“[The] government has found it prudent not to telegraph its decisions and plans by not publicly disclosing them before they are executed,” Abad said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Abad, a senior political adviser to the President, said Mr. Aquino was confident he had the support of the people “as he exercises leadership in scaling down the tensions arising from the incidents in Panatag Shoal.”
Panatag Shoal is one of two names the Philippines uses to refer to the Scarborough Shoal, a resource-rich formation of rocks and corals in the West Philippine Sea 220 kilometers west of Zambales province. The other name is Bajo de Masinloc.
Panatag Shoal is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, but China claims it is part of its territory, and shows old maps to prove it.
Thursday’s Cabinet meeting was supposed to decide when to send the government vessels back. Lacierda told reporters that the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, made certain decisions. He would not say, however, whether a date for resuming the face-off with the Chinese at Panatag Shoal was one of those decisions.
Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas on Saturday appealed to the public to just wait for what the government would do.
“The government will lay out its position in due time after it has thoroughly evaluated the available options,” Llamas said. “While that evaluation and discussion are taking place, though, the premature public revelation of all the issues will only create confusion and make the process of reaching a peaceful and favorable outcome more difficult,” he said.
For Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City and Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque City, there’s no problem with the President’s decision.
“We can’t telegraph our strategic plans and intentions,” Biazon, a former military chief, said Saturday. “In effect, what we’re witnessing is that different members of the Cabinet are saying different things on the same issue. I welcome that instruction of the President.”
Golez, a former Navy officer, said that’s how it should be, as “diplomacy is an opaque exercise.”
Golez had a reminder for everyone: Leaking vital information or state secrets is a criminal offense.