By Wilnard Bacelonia

BRP Sierra Madre (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday debunked the statement of former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque linking the alleged agreement between the Philippines and China to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal to his father, former president Joseph Estrada.

Estrada said the statement is disappointing and it is unacceptable for Roque “to make such baseless claims when he’s not privy to such information.”

Minsan ko nang pinanindigan sa isang privilege speech na walang kasunduan o pangakong binitawan ang aking ama, ang dating president Joseph Estrada, sa pagtanggal ng BRP Sierra Madre sa Ayungin Shoal at ito’y pinatotohanan pa ng mga noo’y defense and security officials gaya ni dating (I already have affirmed in a privilege speech that there was no agreement or commitment given by my father, former president Joseph Estrada, to remove BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, and this was already proved by former defense and security officials like former) Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado,” he said in a statement.

Estrada, who chairs the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, said statements like what Roque made sow confusion and doubt in the country’s integrity and capability to fight for its sovereignty amid the “worsening aggression and bullying” of China.

“Amid all these pronouncements, it’s praiseworthy that the Marcos administration is taking concrete actions to protect our sovereign rights and territorial integrity. Any efforts made to address this ongoing and escalating aggression by China should be supported and encouraged,” the lawmaker said.

“We must remain firm and united in defending our sovereignty, and in safeguarding our maritime territories for the benefit of present and future generations,” he added.

When asked in an interview with Politiko about a previous agreement between China and the Philippines to remove the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, Roque said that he is not “privy” to the said agreement but only to the engagements made by the Duterte Administration with China.

He said that as far as he knew, the agreement about the removal of the grounded warship had been attributed to former President Estrada.

Kung di ako nagkakamali, ina-attribute naman nila yang kasunduan na yan sa administrasyon po ni president Estrada at hindi kay (If I am not mistaken, they attribute that agreement to the administration of president Estrada and not to) president Duterte,” Roque said.