MANILA, JUNE 21, 2011 (MALAYA) BY REGINA BENGCO - MALACAÑANG yesterday said government is not agitating China through its statements and the deployment of the country’s only warship near the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Palace was reacting to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s admonition to President Aquino’s spokespersons to leave the talking to the Department of Foreign Affairs so as not to aggravate the tension over the disputed area.

"We are not agitating the situation…We’ve been very deliberate and very nuanced in our statements. It’s just that sometimes they are lost in translation and all of our points are not understood," said Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang said.

Carandang said there is nothing wrong with explaining what government is doing about the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea and trying to communicate with as many audiences, including the international community.

"The people also want to know what government is doing on this issue in the West Philippine Sea. I think there’s nothing wrong with explaining it to the public," he said.

Carandang said there is no reason for China to be agitated by the deployment of the BRP Raja Humabon because it will only patrol territorial waters.

"It’s not going beyond our waters and I think we have sovereign right to take our vessels and travel within our territory anytime we want to. I do not view this as an agitation and I don’t think the Chinese would view it as an agitation either," he said.

China and the Philippines, together with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, are claiming the Spratly Islands at the West Philippine Sea.

The deployment of the BRP Raja Humabon followed China’s deployment of one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships to the West Philippine Sea. China’s move came after weeks of trading accusations with Vietnam and the Philippines over alleged intrusions.

Carandang said the issues with China have been dealt with on a number of levels, including diplomatic and on the Asean level, and this requires sending the right messages.

He also said there is no need to convene the National Security Council at this time because matters are being handled effectively at the level of the Cabinet security cluster, which is headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said Aquino and his Palace officials, who seem bent on aggravating the territorial dispute, should be reminded that the situation in the disputed territory "is not a video game with a restart button."

"First they are insisting in bringing in the United States into the fray. Now they are provoking a military engagement by deploying a full-fledged warship," he said.

Casiño said sending the country’s one and only World War II vintage warship may be good for President Aquino’s ego, but it is still "obviously just for show." – With Wendell Vigilia

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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