PRESIDENT Joseph Estrada did promise in 1999 to remove the BRP Sierra Madre, which his Navy deliberately grounded on Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal). In the instances when the governments of Estrada and later of President Benigno Aquino 3rd were reminded of that commitment by the Chinese, they claimed that technical difficulties prevented them from removing the landing ship, tank (LST) Sierra Madre.
This is an indisputable fact. The Foreign Affairs department is shamelessly irresponsible in its refusal to correct the claims of such ignorant jingoists as National Security Council spokesman Jonathan Malaya and Coast Guard official Jay Tarriela.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was more careful and instead said, “I am not aware of such agreement. If there was, I rescind it as of this moment.”
While the commitment was solely verbal, it was mentioned in several documents. The succeeding administrations after Estrada did not claim that there was no such promise. The denial of such a promise by Malaya, a former interior undersecretary, is the first to be made by a government official of the commitment. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has not officially denied that such a promise was made to the Chinese.
That there was such an agreement is reflected in confidential official memoranda by DFA officials.(more…)