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NSC spox: Tiglao's claim of PH-China BRP Sierra Madre deal a 'conjecture'

The National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday dismissed the claim of former Malacañang official Rigoberto Tiglao that the Philippines has committed to China to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, NSC spokesperson Jonathan Malaya
said Tiglao's basis for his claim was a memo from the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Robert del Rosario where the latter supposedly mentioned a similar claim of China.

Malaya pointed out that Del Rosario was simply quoting China in the memo.

"Ang nilabas niya (Tiglao) doon is memo ni former Secretary Albert del Rosario stating na 'yung Tsina ay nagsabi na may diumano pangako, pero wala namang nakalagay doon sa dokumentong 'yun na may pangako nga. Ang nakalagay lang doon, sinabi ng Tsina," Malaya said.

(What he published was a memo from former Secretary Albert del Rosario stating that China said there is such commitment by the Philippine government, but there was no indication in the document that there is indeed a commitment. What was stated there is just China's claim.)

"So kaagad-agad ang conjecture niya 'dahil sinabi ng Tsina ganito, tama ang Tsina'. So ako, skeptical ako diyan sa sinasabing pangako," he added.

(So his immediate conjecture was “because China said it, China is right." So I am skeptical about that supposed commitment.)

In his column on Manila Times, Tiglao claimed that the commitment with China was made in 1999 under then-President Joseph Estrada, the same year the rusting Navy ship was installed at the shoal.

Tiglao also said he has enough evidence to prove his claim.

According to Tiglao, the Estrada administration committed to remove two Philippine vessels, and that only the BRP Benguet, stationed at Scarborough Shoal, was removed.

Tiglao served as spokesperson for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she succeeded Estrada in 2001.

For Malaya, only written joint statements and summary of agreement are considered binding in diplomatic circles, as he challenged China and Tiglao to present such documents.

He also pointed out that the issue is practically closed when President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said he is rescinding any commitment should there really be an existing agreement between the two countries on the removal of BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

Malaya said China’s insistence on the supposed commitment is part of its psychological or cognitive warfare against the Philippines against the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

On August 5, China Coast Guard ships, accompanied by other Chinese militia vessels, performed "dangerous maneuvers" against four Philippine vessels on their way to Ayungin Shoal to resupply the servicemen stationed at the Sierra Madre.

China then alleged that the Philippines had promised to remove the Sierra Madre from the shoal, which is claims as its own and calls Ren'ai Reef.   —KBK, GMA Integrated News