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MANILA, Philippines – “All hearsay.”
This was what Senator Jinggoy Estrada said on Monday, August 14, as he refuted the claim that it was his father, former president Joseph Estrada, who made the promise to China to remove the grounded vintage battleship BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.
Senator JV Ejercito, also a son of the former president, likewise defended their father.
“I don’t know where he got his information,” Jinggoy told reporters when asked to comment on a Manila Times column published on Monday.
In his column on Monday, Roberto Tiglao said that “[former] president Joseph Estrada did promise in 1999 to remove the BRP Sierra Madre, which his Navy deliberately grounded on Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal).”
Jinggoy said that his father, who is now 86 years old, could not recall what happened during that time. So Jinggoy instructed his staff to call former senator Orly Mercado who was the defense chief during the Estrada administration.
“He (Mercado) confirmed that there was no agreement or promise whatsoever made to the Chinese government,” Jinggoy said.
In his own statement, JV also defended the Ejercito-Estrada patriarch, saying that Tiglao’s claim was “very inconsistent and (lacked) common sense.”
“I don’t know saan nanggaling ‘yung statement ni Tiglao (where Tiglao’s statement came from) but it was them who supported the entry of first salvo of Chinese intrusion through NBN ZTE baka ‘yun ang dapat nilang alalahanin (maybe that’s what they need to remember),” he said.
JV said that his father had the “balls to claim our territory against the super power,”
On Wednesday, August 9, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. refuted China and denied any agreement to remove the crippled World War II-era Philippine ship BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“I’m not aware of any such arrangement or agreement that the Philippines will remove from its own territory its ship, in this case, the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal,” Marcos said in a video released by Malacañang.
“If there does exist such an agreement, I rescind that agreement now,” Marcos said.
China has been calling on the Philippines to remove the BRP Sierra Madre, which is manned by only a small team of Philippine Marines. China’s claim of the supposed Philippine “promise” follows an August 5 incident where Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels harassed and sprayed water cannons towards Philippine ships en route to the BRP Sierra Madre for a routine resupply mission.
Though the grounded vessel is riddled with rust because of exposure to the elements in the West Philippine Sea, the BRP Sierra Madre serves as an outpost standing the way of China’s claim over the whole South China Sea.
Ayungin Shoal and the BRP Sierra Madre, which was purposefully run aground by the Philippines in 1999, are well within the country’s exclusive economic zone. – Rappler.com