MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 June) – Military officials should hold back their tongues and allow the Department of Foreign Affairs to echo the stand of the Aquino administration on the Spratly issue, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. today said.
“While the Armed Forces of the Philippines is expected to put up a brave front and can say that it would do everything within its capability to defend Philippine territory from any form of foreign aggression, it should refrain from making any provocative statements that could antagonize any of the claimants, including China,” Pimentel said in a statement.
He said the Philippines should not unnecessarily antagonize other claimant-countries, particularly China, noting that the Philippines have generally warm relations with them.
The former senator said the AFP should defer to the DFA on political questions, such as the Spratly issue, and leave it to the DFA to explain the Philippine government position on any aspect of the issue.
“It doesn’t help our claim over the contested islets if statements coming from the AFP or any other government entity would only stir up heated rhetoric instead of calm reason,” Pimentel pointed out.
He said it is the DFA’s role to explain to media and the international community the Philippines’ official stand, cautioning at the same time that the Spratly issue has political, economic and security implications.
He added that diplomacy and tact should be used in settling the country’s claim over parts of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Spratly Islands consist of less than four square kilometers of land area spread over more than 425,000 square kilometers of sea.
But aside from offering rich fishing grounds, the islands are believed to contain deposits of oil and natural gas. (MindaNews)