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MANILA, Philippines – Every key detail of meetings between Chinese petroleum officials and a Philippine company that owned the service contract to explore the Recto Bank were made known to 'relevant Philippine government' entities before and after Manuel V. Pangilinan flew to Beijing in May, the businessman said Friday.
In a telephone interview from Tokyo with News5, Pangilinan said he has nothing more to explain on the matter because at every turn - from the time the invitation to meet in Beijing was sent by the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), to the threshing out of discussion notes, to the post-meeting briefing - his side had kept Philippine government officials, in Manila and with the Philippine embassy in Beijing, abreast of developments
Pangilinan said he even made minutes of the May 8 meeting with CNOOC and furnished this to the Philippine embassy, which at that time did not yet have an ambassador, as it was weeks before Sonia Brady would be assigned there. Pangilinan said he touched base with the Consul General as soon as he arrived in Beijing, and apprised the Consul General of the agenda of his upcoming meeting with CNOOC, and then briefed the embassy later, by way of shared minutes.
(Pangilinan is chairman of TV5, for which InterAksyon.com is the online news portal.)
In the wake of the plenary showdown last Wednesday between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, over Trillanes' apparent meddling with the work of DFA on the China front, Pangilinan said he wants to "just move on."
"I've said what I wanted to say," he said in Filipino. "I had that meeting with CNOOC sa Beijing for what I thought is the best interest of our country. I would not have talked to them if our government didn't know about it."
Asked who in the Philippine government knew of the meeting, Pangilinan said he did not wish to pinpoint exact personalities.
"Ang masasabi ko lang, lahat ng aming ginawa bago naming ginawa ito (What I can say is, everything we did)...from the time the letter came from the CNOOC chairman inviting us to visit Beijing, till the date was set, and what I would tell the CNOOC officials - I cleared all of that with our government.”
In the absence of an ambassador in Beijing, Pangilinan said "we went to see the consul general the day before the meeting; and right after the meeting with CNOOC, we met at my hotel, we had coffee and some briefing so they would know what we talked about. So all relevant officials of the government knew."
Pangilinan stressed, "I would never make any trip on such a sensitive matter without clearing it with the government. I don’t want to do that because I know I might be accused of being a traitor to our country."
There was never a time in that trip to Beijing that he had an encounter with Trillanes, he stressed. Neither would he have told Trillanes of his meeting with CNOOC, he said, since the latter requested that he limit the dissemination of details to only the relevant officials of the Philippine government.
"The relevant officials were exempted [from the confidentiality request]. I told [the Chinese] I have to brief them because I cannot keep this just to myself; I must brief my government because it's hard for me to just be doing this on my own."
He declined to specify the names of government officials when asked to comment on a report that at some point, President Aquino had asked the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who authorized him to go to Beijing. "Hindi nila masasabi na hindi nila alam. Yun lang ang masasabi ko. Hindi ako gumagalaw na hindi nila alam," he said. (They can't say that they didn't know. That's all I can say. I don't move without them knowing.)
Pangilinan said he had reacted strongly to Trillanes' framing of the situation - as Enrile revealed from the Brady Notes on Trillanes - only because the younger senator had made it appear there was "no resource" of substantial levels in Service Contract 72 that was bagged by Philex Petroleum; and Pangilinan therefore supposedly conspired with del Rosario in contriving a war-like scenario at Panatag Shoal to draw attention away from Recto Bank.
Pangilinan said Philex Petroleum never misled anyone on this and "in fact, in a forum, Philex Petroleum said there appears to be resources there, it looks big, but that cannot yet be confirmed with certainty."
"That’s why we warned that such a resources estimate was not final. We never said anything about that spot being a dry hole," he explained, speaking in Filipino.
He said his group was not protecting anybody else's interest in SC 72. "The CNOOC at this time has no participation yet in that SC 72, because they have no money there. All the money came from Philex Petroleum-Forum and its local partner."
Pangilinan reiterated four guidelines that he said govern any decision in dealing with China in any potential joint exploration venture:
First, the arrangements "must not infringe on Philippine sovereignty."
Second, it must not violate any Philippine law or regulations.
Three, the commercial terms of agreement with the Chinese "must be acceptable to the Philippine government and with us in the private sector, and of course, their [Chinese] because we can’t be the only ones unilaterally making impositions on them."
Fourth, the Philippine President or government must not in any way be compromised by any arrangement and "we will never defy them."
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