Scarborough not a military problem, says senior AFP officer

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 August) – The Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China is a diplomatic issue and “never a military issue,” a high-ranking military officer said.

Maj. Gen. Francisco N. Cruz, deputy chief of staff for intelligence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told journalists during a recent tour of the Foreign Armed Forces Attaché (FAFA) Corps here that military attachés of different countries are in fact joking about the standoff.

“If the generals of different countries have harmonious relationship, there’ll be no war. They won’t fire their guns because they are all my friends. It’s normal for us. We’re friends with the Chinese,” he said.

He called it as military diplomacy.

Also known as Panatag Shoal in the Philippines, Scarborough is a rock formation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that is also being claimed by China as Huangyan Island.

“It’s a diplomatic issue. It’s never a military issue. We’re joking about it,” Cruz said.

He said they even asked the Chinese attachés to sing the Scarborough Fair song of Simon and Garfunkel. “We taught them how to sing it,” he added.

“We think it will be resolved… They (diplomats) are talking now. There are no more additional ships. This is the sign that the situation is improving,” he said.

In a national report, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said earlier that the Philippines will send back navy ships to the Scarborough Shoal once the weather is safe for sailing.

He also mentioned in the report that three Chinese vessels remain near the shoal.

Del Rosario will visit Southeast Asian ministers this month and will address the United Nations General Assembly on the issue in September, the report said.

Military attachés from 11 countries, namely, the Philippines, China, United States, Japan, Spain, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Korea, Thailand, and India, attended the city tour with the Manila Association of Military Attaché’s Spouses.

The attendees met with the Eastern Mindanao Command and the city government officials, and visited a few ecotourism destinations such as the Philippine Eagle and Pearl Farm.

“True enough, they are right that the city is peaceful. It is the most peaceful city in Mindanao. In fact, it is more peaceful than Manila because the crime rate of Davao is one percent,” Cruz said.

They also visited the Garden of Eden Restored in Tamayong, Davao City last August 23.

It is the prayer mountain established by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the religious sect, “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name.”

“The prayer mountain has become popular even among foreigners. When we mentioned the prayer mountain, they requested to visit it so we included it in the itinerary. They were amazed with the landscape and serenity of the place,” Cruz said.

He said the FAFA tour is a semi-annual activity, and this is their first of this year. Last year, they visited Cebu.

“With or without the Scarborough (issue), we will go here,” he added. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)