Strange events happened in 2012 in the coral reef area of Hasa-Hasa Shoal within the disputed West Philippine Sea where a Chinese warship “ran aground” just when a standoff at the nearby Scarborough was at its peak.
Sometime in early July 2012, a Chinese naval frigate was stranded in the area that was extracted by several boats sent by its government on 15 July of that year.
Earlier in 17 June, a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources survey ship left Scarborough on orders of then President Noynoy Aquino citing bad weather as typhoon “Buchoy” approached Luzon from Eastern Samar.
China then had about seven government ships outside the shoal’s lagoon and 20 to 26 other fishing boats.
Hasa-Hasa or Half Moon Shoal is a known area where Philippine Navy ships play tag with Chinese vessels, which then “accidentally” run aground in the vast coral reef field.
Based on the notes taken by former Ambassador Sonia Brady in a meeting with then back channel Antonio Trillanes IV, it was then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, apparently acting on orders from higher ups, who wanted to create a “war condition” to divert attention from the Reed Bank, where the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan was exploring for oil deposits.
Based on the account of the senator, the findings in the supposed oil-rich area were disappointing so “Mr. Pangilinan asked the Chinese group (partners) not to release the findings. They needed time to ensure that they can recover their investment.”
The notes taken by the Ambassador also mentioned talks of a “Luzon invasion” in which then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was present.
Enrile did affirm being there, but he said what transpired was different from the Trillanes narrative.
“I was there. He was telling falsehoods. President Aquino was in front of me. The poor Secretary of Foreign Affairs was pilloried as Trillanes accused him of not knowing his job,” Enrile noted.
All along, Enrile said Trillanes was acting on behalf of the Chinese while giving local officials an assurance that Beijing will “never put up a station there.”
“If China wanted to, they would have done so already,” Enrile quoted Trillanes as saying based on the Brady notes that he held.
There was also a period when Trillanes hid the suspension of talks for two weeks from Aquino, and the senator had downplayed to the Chinese the interest of the Philippines on the disputed region.
Aquino called the senator when he realized the Chinese did not withdraw as agreed based on a plan Trillanes was involved in.
“The President (Aquino) did not know of the arrangements being made by the senator,” Enrile insisted.
“Nobody in the Philippines wanted Scarborough Shoal,” Trillanes told Brady.
“Trillanes told the Chinese that we cannot enforce our coastal protection. Our fishermen are living on subsistence fishing. They cannot, therefore, fish too far,” Enrile noted.
Bungling duo Aquino and Trillanes played a cloak-and-dagger game that placed the interest of the whole country on the line that needed a full reversal when President Rodrigo Duterte took over the reins of government.
Former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Del Rosario are now engaged in an effort to deflect blame on the Chinese buildup that happened due to the saber rattling of Aquino, while Trillanes acted as a double agent for the Chinese while performing as back channel.
Amateurs in foreign relations tried to use a movie script to solve an intricate foreign relations problem was what actually transpired.
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