Panatag Shoal, or otherwise known as Scarborough Shoal, was a peaceful piece of terrain that never compelled China or Philippines to impose sovereignty over, as explained by Manila Times writer Rigoberto Tiglao.
The conflict ensued when former President Benigno Aquino III sent a naval warship named BRP Gregorio del Pilar to confront two civilian China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) ships which sent the wrong message to China given that it was a warship that Aquino launched into the Shoal.
The incident prompted China to claim ownership of the Shoal and protect it from foreign fishermen and ships. Aquino retaliated with two Coast Guard and Bureau of fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ships to block the entrance, and it took more than a month before both Chinese and Filipino vessels were withdrawn.
While the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) claimed that consultations with China led to the withdrawal of ships of both countries, the incident has a more complicated precedence that involves Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and DFA Secretary Alberto del Rosario during Aquino’s term.
Trillanes was sent to China to negotiate the “sequential withdrawal” of the Chinese and Filipino vessels in the Shoal. During his trip, Aquino informed the senator that while the ships have been withdrawn, two Chinese vessels remained.
It turns out Del Rosario was responsible for the disorganizaed withdrawal that left two Chinese ships in the lagoon because he signed an agreement in Washington without properly coordinating with Trillanes and Aquino on the matter.
Trillanes was angry over Del Rosario’s actions and even said in an interview that the latter should be shot because the Philippines loss the Shoal.
While the Yellow administration covered it up with a “David-versus-Goliath narrative”, Tiglao emphasized that it was the disorganized crisis management of the Aquino administration that led to the loss of the Shoal.
Source: Facebook / Eric Clark Su
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