5:09 pm | Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disputed the allegations of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that the negotiations between the United States and the Philippines for increased rotational presence of their troops was being unjustly hyped.
“Defending what is ours, securing our nation, and keeping our people safe is a combined effort of diplomacy and defense, the partnership of the DFA and Department of National Defense (DND) is of paramount importance,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters Tuesday.
“We need to be transparent to the public; we need to let our people know how we intend to protect and safeguard their interest and welfare at all times,” he said.
Trillanes said Monday that the negotiations between US and the Philippines should be a national security matter only and the DFA should not have a role.
“I believe that is an operational matter that does not need the consent of the Senate so they should have studied it first before they give it hype,” Trillanes said.
“That should be a defense matter, it’s not a foreign relations matter. It is a national security concern, only [DND] secretary Voltaire Gazmin should be speaking about that matter,” he said.
The ongoing territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) between the Philippines and China should not be connected to the policy of the US to shift its forces to Asia and their increased rotational presence in the country, he said.
“That should not be connected to any national security crisis. That should be completely within the context of training and upgrading the military capabilities,” Trillanes said.
He further blamed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario saying that “he is drawing attention to himself” and that “lumalabas na naman yung pagka-war freak n’ya rito (he’s showing again his hawkish side).”
“If the soldiers hear the national leaders being a bit hostile, that will also be their mood at the lower levels, they will be alert. But if they keep the peace, the soldiers will just do their job and follow the rules of engagement and not be in alert-mode. That is the difference,” Trillanes said.
When asked what was the DFA’s reaction to his statements, Hernandez said “I don’t want to comment on that anymore.”
The DND and the DFA will begin their negotiations with the US to come to a framework agreement Wednesday. Trillanes however thinks that a new agreement was unnecessary because the increased rotational presence of US troops was already within the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Hernandez assured that the interests of the country will be protected and that whatever agreement they will come to would be mutually beneficial.
“We make sure that our interest and our laws here, and the security of the people are protected,” Hernandez said.
“The parameters have already been set and both secretaries have already stated this. These are very clear parameters: respect for the Philippine constitution, the laws, and jurisprudence, the preservation of Philippine sovereignty, the non-permanence of US troops, and the non-exclusivity of the use of facilities by US troops,” he said.
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