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Arroyo to visit Spratly territory–Esperon

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:26:00 03/24/2008

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will visit Pag-asa Island in the disputed Spratlys, amid allegations that her government had entered into a tripartite agreement, which softened the country’s claim on the reportedly oil-rich island chain in the South China Sea, Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday.


Esperon said the President’s trip to Pag-asa, an island village in the Kalayaan municipality “should demonstrate to you that that is indeed our territory.”

Esperon said the President “scolded” him on the phone on Saturday night, when he informed her of his visit to Pag-asa Island.

Asked if his visit was meant to reinforce the country’s claim on the Spratlys, Esperon said: “It could. It just signifies that that’s our territory.”

In an interview with reporters at the Western Command (Wescom) headquarters here, Esperon said the President’s tight schedule prevented her from coming to the Spratlys on Monday. She said the President would push through with her visit as soon as her schedule cleared.

“Napagalitan ako [She scolded me]. You should have told me about your trip earlier because I really want to go to Kalayaan,” the military chief quoted the President as telling him.

“Abangan niyo siya [Watch out for her],” he said in a speech to the troops, who were celebrating the 32nd anniversary of Wescom.

Asked if he was wary that his visit would raise diplomatic concerns, Esperon said: “I do not think I should be concerned because I’m visiting a municipality of Palawan.”

Opposition lawmakers are seeking an investigation into the Joint
Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, amid suspicion that the country softened its claim on the Spratlys, in favor of China, in exchange for a multi-million-dollar loan package.

The first phase of the JMSU will end by middle of this year. A Cabinet group is studying whether to renew the agreement.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-03-24T15:14:42+00:00UTC03bUTCMon, 24 Mar 2008 15:14:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

Posted in Uncategorized

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