Ex-foreign affairs chief slams presidential spokesperson's 'mindless' remarks on sea row

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Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday hit the "mindless" statements of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo which claimed the government has never shelved the 2016 arbitral ruling win against China.

"The aforementioned as expressed by the presidential spokesperson is absolutely mindless," del Rosario said in a statement. "It is mindless as our presidential spokesperson appears to be in surrender without lifting a finger to peacefully defend what is ours."

Del Rosario criticized Panelo's Sunday remarks which said the ruling was never shelved, and "only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it." Panelo added enforcing the South China Sea maritime ruling alone by force could only trigger a war.

The former foreign affairs chief also listed down six instances in which the Duterte administration announced they would shelve the ruling. In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would set aside the award which Beijing welcomed.

"The presidential spokesperson has declared that the arbitral ruling was never shelved. Our records would indicate otherwise," del Rosario said.

Del Rosario hit Panelo for thinking that war is the only alternative to setting aside the arbitral decision. Duterte himself has repeatedly said that if Manila brings up the ruling with Beijing, there will be a war.

"The thought that war is the only alternative to setting aside the Arbitral decision cannot possibly be serious in this modern world," del Rosario added.

The former top diplomat also refuted allegations Panelo made, saying del Rosario was responsible for the Philippines' loss of control over Scarborough Shoal in the contested waterway during his time in office.

"During the impasse at Scarborough Shoal with China in 2012, we were approached by the U.S., an honest broker for both China and the Philippines, to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of ships from the shoal," Del Rosario explained.

He added that around that time, China had over 30 ships while the Philippines had one.

"We ultimately agreed to the U.S. proposal. At the appointed time, we withdrew, whereas China - acting with duplicity did not. When confronted with the non-withdrawal of their ships, Beijing's response was a denial of the existence of such an agreement," Del Rosario added.

Del Rosario then questioned if this was the spokesperson asserting the Philippines' position against China's action.

"Is the presidential spokesperson credibly asserting our rightful position against China? If he is not doing this, what in heaven's name is he doing?" he said.

The tiff between the two began when Del Rosario called on the government to "unshelve" the ruling amid Chinese presence near Pag-asa Island in Palawan.