By Cathy YamsuanPhilippine Daily Inquirer
3:54 am | Monday, July 9th, 2012
Sen. Joker Arroyo
President Benigno Aquino should use “quiet diplomacy”—as his mother frequently did—in handling the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a senator who was close to the late President Corazon Aquino said Sunday.
Part of the skill, Senator Joker Arroyo said, involves telling subordinates to “shut up” if the President finds them “talking out of turn” so as not to jeopardize efforts at searching for an acceptable solution to the two countries.
“Cory was very good with quiet diplomacy,” Arroyo, the late President’s first executive secretary, said in Filipino in a radio interview.
Arroyo recalled: “She would first ask trusted people to probe an issue very quietly. That was part of the discipline. And if anyone makes the mistake of rattling about something, it took just one phone call. ‘You better shut up, you’re talking out of turn,’ she would tell the offender.”
He said quiet diplomacy worked for the President’s mother because it was very simple. “Nobody knew what had been discussed. Nobody was embarrassed. If the information was favorable to the effects of negotiations, we used it. If not, then we didn’t. We didn’t lose anything because we kept quiet.”
Arroyo offered his recollections as Malacañang ordered officials to clam up on the government’s plans and decisions involving the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Standoff with China
The premature withdrawal of Philippine vessels on June 15, forced by stormy weather, temporarily ended a two-month standoff with China at Panatag Shoal. But it left China in effective control of the shoal, as it called home only its fishing boats.
Chinese government ships never left the shoal. The Philippine Coast Guard said Sunday that three Chinese government vessels were at the shoal, no change from the previous day.
There were no Chinese fishing boats in the shoal’s lagoon, and the Coast Guard said it did not see any obstructions in the area.
The continued presence of Chinese vessels at Panatag Shoal despite the Philippine pullback has caused reactions ranging from discomfort to outrage in the Philippines.
Arroyo said Cory Aquino was known for resorting to back channels in sensitive issues and, apparently, her son needed to learn the skill.
“There are things we should resort to back channels in dealing with,” Arroyo said. “Let’s not announce everything. It’s probably better to get people who have connections in China to its leaders.”
“Let’s not hesitate to tap even those identified with the previous administration,” he added. “You must harness them if they have connections and if they can talk quietly. [Not like this],” he said, referring to government press officers, including those from Malacañang, who talk to reporters about the government’s every step in handling the Panatag dispute.
“They’re know-it-all, you know, they can’t stop talking,” Arroyo said.
He suggested that instead of involving the entire Cabinet in the discussions, the President should limit the framework to officials whose responsibilities involve the sensitive issue with China.
“He should convene the National Security Council (NSC), not the Cabinet,” Arroyo said. “What have the secretaries of agriculture, environment, labor and whatever got to do with it?”
Arroyo explained: “The NSC is actually composed of the entire Cabinet except that the dominant secretaries are those of defense, foreign affairs, that’s it. And the secretary of finance because there is money involved. But other than that, the rest play secondary roles. These are the things we should consider.”
Don’t expect much
Arroyo advised Malacañang to lower its expectations about US help in the territorial conflict with China.
“We are an orphan (when it comes to) Scarborough,” Arroyo said, using the international name of Panatag Shoal. “Even our neighbors in (Southeast Asia) whom we rely on do not even want to make a statement supporting our position because they have their own problems with China.”
“And why should they strain their relations with China? And why should the US when its trade volume with China is so huge compared with our trade with them. Our trade with the US is not even 1 percent compared to that with the US and China,” Arroyo said.
“If their trade with China is doing well, why would the US jeopardize that? The need between the US and China is mutual and they would rather talk of commerce,” he added.
‘That’s for show’
Arroyo said the United States’ sending over ships was appreciated, but it did not indicate any deeper commitment.
“They send over these hospital ships, submarines—that’s for show,” he said. “But we cannot expect the US and China to go to war with each other over Scarborough.”
While the United States wants to be seen as a Pacific power, “any role they play in Southeast Asia is to their self-interest,” Arroyo said. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan
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Tags: Asia-Pacific , Benigno Aquino , China , Corazon Aquino , Global Nation , Joker Arroyo , Maritime Dispute , Panatag Shoal , Philippines , Politics , Quiet Diplomacy , Scarborough Shoal , South China Sea , West Philippine Sea
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See more here: Quiet diplomacy worked for Cory, Sen. Arroyo reminds Aquino – Inquirer.net (blog)(source)
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