DFA says Duterte admin made '85 diplomatic actions' – on what?
Slammed for refusing to publicize its protests against China, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) released a statement saying the Philippines has made "85 diplomatic actions" under the Duterte administration.
In its statement on Monday evening, June 4, the DFA claimed that 35 of these diplomatic actions "were undertaken by Secretary Allan (sic) Peter S. Cayetano."
Here's the catch: The DFA statement did not specify what these diplomatic actions were all about.
Were these about China? Or were these about other countries that earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, such as the United States?
And what kinds of diplomatic actions did the Philippines make? Were these actions in the form of diplomatic protests? If yes, did the Philippines file notes verbale, and how many? Take note that Cayetano broadly defines diplomatic protests to include even verbal reminders.
The DFA statement, in other words, was vague. Its title was about "diplomatic actions on issues in general," its first paragraph was about China, but its next 3 paragraphs did not clearly refer to any country.
At least 3 reporters, including this writer, have asked the DFA to clarify these matters, but the DFA has not acknowledged our questions as of posting time.
In any case the wording of the statement, issued at the height of criticism against the DFA, made it appear to some that the topic was China.
In fact at least one news organization, CNN Philippines, published a report titled, "DFA: PH engaged in 85 'diplomatic actions' on sea row under Duterte's term." CNN Philippines posted this story on Tuesday morning, June 5.
Is this what the DFA wants the public to believe?
This comes after Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano criticized Cayetano for supposedly filing only one diplomatic protest against China under his watch.
Without showing evidence, Cayetano had claimed in a congressional hearing that the Philippines has filed 50 to 100 protests against China over the past two years.
Read the DFA's full, unedited statement below:
STATEMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS UNDERSECRETARY ERNESTO ABELLA ON PHILIPPINE DIPLOMATIC ACTIONS ON ISSUES
Let me be clear that the Department of Foreign Affairs fully supports the policy of the President that the Philippines will continue to fight for its rights in the South China Sea, and the statement of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs that the "Philippines will not give up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea."
Having said that, we need to underline that since President Duterte assumed office, the Philippines has engaged in 85 diplomatic actions, 35 of which were undertaken by Secretary Allan Peter S. Cayetano. We asserted our rights numerous times in bilateral consultations, in face to face meetings and in written documents.
It is important to understand that in diplomatic engagement, it is the content that matters, in whatever form it is conveyed.
While some critics may nitpick, it is important that our gains are not only conserved but that our national interest thrives, as a careful accounting will show.
Manila, 4 June 2018
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