Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Building, Malacañang

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO:  Good morning Malacañang Press Corps and guests. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO:  Hello… Hi… Mukhang naka-ready ka na Joseph ha, naka-coat ka na ngayon ha.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Kulang pa ‘yan, sir…

SEC. PANELO:  Kulang pa ha… Okay, start…

HENRY URI/DZRH:  Secretary, good morning. Anong mga agreement ang aasahan nating lalagdaan sa pagitan ng Pangulong Duterte at ni President Xi Jinping?

SEC. PANELO:  Pinapa-check ko pa sa DFA kung mayroon.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  [off mic] Kung mayroon?

SEC. PANELO:  Kung mayroon man…

HENRY URI/DZRH:  Ibig sabihin na hindi pa sigurado Secretary na may agreement silang pipirmahan?

SEC. PANELO:  Siguro naman mayroon, pero hindi ko alam exactly kung alin kaya pinapakuha ko na. Maya-maya baka umabot tayo…

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, the SWS released a statement already ‘no, but for sound byte purposes majority of the Filipinos do not agree with the government in action, I think 84%. So that’s the sentiment of the Filipinos that we’re not doing anything on the South China Sea. Your comment first…

SEC. PANELO:  Well, first, that is expected. We’ve been allies with the United States for so long a time, and you cannot just easily in overnight… you know, ask majority of the Filipinos trusting the Chinese government. It will be a long process.

Number two, as pointed out by one of the lawyers, the question as crafted seems to mislead. It suggests that this government is not doing anything plus the criticism has been going in media criticizing the President for not doing anything. But the problem with them is that, they seem not to know exactly the strategy of the President. The President is very careful but diplomatic at the same time; but foremost in his mind is the safety of the Filipinos, of this nation.

That is why as I was saying earlier, the arbitral ruling cannot be taken away from us – it will be there forever. But meanwhile, who will enforce it? There is no power on earth presently that can enforce it. The United Nations cannot, the US cannot… Who will enforce it? Meanwhile, perhaps from the point of view of the President, we can get things done by negotiating – that is precisely why we have this mechanism of negotiating; talking with them. That is why we have this Code of Conduct, because as far as the Chinese are concerned, we owned this… this is ours.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  [off mic] As far as the Chinese are concerned?

SEC. PANELO:  Yes! That’s what they are saying, that by historic right/title they own that part of the world. But meanwhile, there are claimants and there is problem with navigation as well as over flight. So we have to draft a Code of Conduct and we’re glad that the Chinese government acceded and they’re willing to sit down and talk on how the Code of Conduct will be drafted.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Follow up, sir. You mentioned that as far as the Chinese are concerned, we own this part of the world ‘no?

SEC. PANELO:  No. As far as they are concerned, they own it. They’re saying, “We own this.”

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  And our position is?

SEC. PANELO:  Our position is, the arbitral ruling says it is ours. But meanwhile, it cannot be enforced.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Okay. Sir you were saying that—going back to the arbitral ruling, you said that there’s nobody that can enforce it, right?

SEC. PANELO:  The United Nations is not enforcing it. The United States is adamant in doing it too. So who will enforce it? Meanwhile, what are we going to do?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Are we saying it’s useless?

SEC. PANELO:  As of now?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Yes, sir.

SEC. PANELO:  Yes. But as I said, we can get what we are supposed to have by negotiation.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  You don’t see this sir as a tool for leverage for the Philippines?

SEC. PANELO:  Which one?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  The PCA ruling, sir. The arbitration ruling…

SEC. PANELO:  I said: that arbitral ruling will be there forever. It will always be a leverage because according to the decision, it is ours.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Uhum… And how are we going to use this as leverage?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, they know that it is ours. But from their point of view, it is theirs. So there is now a conflict between the two, but we cannot go to war and we don’t want also armed conflicts arising in that region because it is us… this country that will suffer the most, given the proximity between the two countries.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Just one last point, sir. To answer the statistics ‘no, the survey… you said that the question, the way it was crafted seemed to be suggestive, right?

SEC. PANELO:  Yeah…

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  And that you’re denying that the government is not doing anything. So to answer that survey sir, what have we done on the SCS or West Philippine Sea sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, that’s precisely we have the negotiating table. That is why the President is visiting this country, those are part of the talks between these two countries.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Maybe as far as advancing our interest is concerned, what have you done?

SEC. PANELO:  We have, one, entered into bilateral talks where problems common to the countries in this region are discussed like security, like terrorism, like the drug menace, like trade relations that will be beneficial to all the countries in the Asian region.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Okay sir, thank you…

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Hi, sir. Sir, since you’re saying that no one can enforce the arbitral ruling, what did the President mean then, President Duterte, when he said before that at one point during his term, he will insist or discuss the arbitral ruling with his Chinese counterpart? What did the President mean by that?

SEC. PANELO:  It means that we will ask them to respect the decision. Because right now, they are not respecting it, they’re using might. It appears that other countries are not willing to help us enforce the same.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  And when we ask them—or when the President asks them to respect the ruling, how does that play into asserting our claims?

SEC. PANELO:  Perhaps you know, when you talk with the Chinese government, perhaps we can tell them that we’re supposed to be neighbors. That this particular area of conflict that we have now is given to us, to all of us – and we have to benefit from all of these. If you are neighbors and neighborly, then we should be agreeing with a modus operandi to use and be benefitted coming from all those resources in that area. In other words, perhaps persuasion can be more successful and fruitful in getting what we want.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Speaking of persuasion sir, some would say that getting support of other nations in asserting our claims could help—

SEC. PANELO:  Well definitely, it fact—

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Is that something that the President is willing to consider? Is considering?

SEC. PANELO:  Oh, that is given because we are part of the United Nations. If you are part of the United Nations, any decision coming from that entity or body will have to be supported by members of that nation—or that organization.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Is that time coming soon sir, when the President will talk to President Xi about it? I mean, could he use this opportunity to do that?

SEC. PANELO:  He could raise it now…

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  He could?

SEC. PANELO:  I mean, that’s his call.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Okay. Lastly sir, doon sa deals lang po. Can you confirm if it will link among the deals that will be signed is one that will be on a joint oil exploration?

SEC. PANELO:  That’s why I’m checking on that. We’re asking DFA.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  There are concerns—or some senators sir are implying that it was China that drafted whatever deal or agreement will be signed.

SEC. PANELO:  Oh, it doesn’t matter who drafted it. As far as we’re concerned, you give us a draft then we will go over it. We have to see whether this is legal or not; whether it’s beneficial to us or not.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  So we’re okay with China dictating whatever will be the contents of the deal?

SEC. PANELO:  No. I said even if China drafts it, it has to go over us; we have to review that. In the same manner that if we draft it, it will have to pass through them too.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES:  Thank you.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  Secretary, you said the ruling of the tribunal is useless, right?

SEC. PANELO:  For purposes of enforcement, but psychologically it benefits us because as far as the world is concerned this is ours not theirs.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  You said also that they are not respecting it, that China are not respecting…

SEC. PANELO:  Yes, obviously they are not. Otherwise, they would have given that property to us.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  By saying that, hindi ho ba naiisip na rin ng Malacañang o ng gobyernong ito na i-give up na lang iyong claim natin, kasi wala rin namang nangyayari at ganoon din.Tila ho walang makapipigil na sa China if it’s useless and they are not respecting it. Wala nang makapipigil sa China…

SEC. PANELO:  I said ‘presently.’ Perhaps, if all the countries of the world will unite and pressure China…who knows.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  So that’s the only way… [overlapping voices]

SEC. PANELO:  I think so… In other words, there must be a collective action by the countries of the world and either persuade or pressure China into respecting an arbitral decision. We cannot give up this claim simply because it’s already ours. We have won it, and it will be there forever.

HENRY/DZRH: And we will not give it up?

SEC. PANELO: Of course not. We will not certainly.

HENRY/DZRH: So ang direksiyon po ba ng Duterte administration kumbinsihin iyong mga bansa sa daigdig na magkaisa para himukin ang China na igalang iyong desisyon?

SEC. PANELO: I think every country in a similar situation will do that. There’s no doubt about it.

HENRY/DZRH: Pero gagawin natin ito?

SEC. PANELO: Yes of course.

HENRY/DZRH: When?

SEC. PANELO: There are modes of doing it. One is negotiation; two, is during summit meetings among countries, we can raise that there. And in fact we did it during the ASEAN Summit.

HENRY/DZRH: So ginagawa na po natin ito?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah.

HENRY/DZRH: Alright, thank you.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, regarding your statement that perhaps if other countries would unite against China. So how could you expect other countries to unite or to cooperate with the Philippines regarding that ruling if the Philippines itself is not insisting on that decision of the PCA?

SEC. PANELO: As I said, the ruling is there, you cannot disown it, you cannot—nobody can take it away from you. What the President is doing right now since it cannot be enforced is using another tack to get things that he wants to get from them through negotiation.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, do you see the sincerity of China sa negotiation na ito?

SEC. PANELO: Well during the previous negotiation, it appears to me when I was there that they are sincere. You know the sincerity will—the final test would be what are the agreements if there are any to be signed, whether we will be getting benefits or not, whether their pledges are going to be fulfilled or not. That will be the test of sincerity.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: What about, sir, the activities going on in South China Sea, isn’t it part of that test – of that sincerity?

SEC. PANELO: Well, look here. The structures that had been constructed started many years ago as pointed out by the President. Now the United States is doing something to prevent its continuous build up. But they have not done anything at the start of the buildup, they allowed it. They allowed it. Now, they’re complaining. Now they’re trying to provoke China and China is being threatened too. That is precisely why is the President is so concerned. That any armed conflict might turn this part of the world as a raging inferno either by collateral damage or by a strategic assault on us because of the proximity. The concern of the President is the safety of this nation, foremost in his mind.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Hi sir. Sir, will President Duterte follow up on China’s pledges of support during his visit?

SEC. PANELO: Definitely, definitely yes. Definitely.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, regarding the infrastructure projects ‘no, si Secretary Diokno said yesterday that at least 10 will be signed. We don’t know that—

SEC. PANELO: Ano iyon?

JOSEPH/GMA7: At least 10 infrastructure projects will be signed ‘no. We don’t know—you don’t have the details yet to whether that is the real number; but my concern is about paying this infrastructure loans if they are loans. Of course, they’re saying—Secretary Sonny Dominguez is saying, they will not compromise the sovereignty of this nation. But what is the assurance that we can pay off those loans in the future. Sinasabi ni Presidente is 25 years pa babayaran, parang libre na iyon. Of course but we still have to pay after 25 years. What’s the assurance that this is not going to be a burden to future generations of Filipinos after 25 years?

SEC. PANELO: You are forgetting recent history. We were indebted with the IMF and the World Bank for millions of dollars and we were able to pay them. I think this nation has a capacity to will itself into complying international obligations and paying loans coming from other countries. I think that we have no history of not paying.

JOSEPH/GMA7: I think the issue is not paying—

SEC. PANELO: With respect to the interest, because they are complaining that interest is high but that’s precisely why there is a negotiation. We can negotiate to lower the interest.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Will we?

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO:  Okay. Last question on China?

DEO DE GUZMAN: Magandang tanghali, Secretary.

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

DEO: Sabi ninyo po kanina, kung mag-u-unite iyong ibang mga bansa to pressure China on the territorial dispute, sasama po ba ang Philippines if ever mag-unite ang ibang bansa—

SEC. PANELO: Precisely the Philippines is the one involved.

DEO: Magle-lead po ba ang Philippines to unite?

SEC. PANELO: Right now, us the Philippines specifically the President is the lead coordinator of the ASEAN countries in talking with the Chinese government with respect to the Code of Conduct in that area with respect to navigation.

DEO: But then sir, bakit po natin parang dina-downplay iyong isyu na iyan like—

SEC. PANELO: What do you mean downplay?

DEO: Hindi po natin pine-pressure dahil nasa atin na iyong claim, okay na tayo—

SEC. PANELO: If you were listening to the speech of the President during the summit then I’m surprised that you’re saying that. He was very emphatic that there should be a Code of Conduct because he is afraid that if there is no self-restraint, that if there would be conflict in that area then all of us will suffer from that conflict.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, right now there are many—hi sir.

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Sir, right now there are many protest on the ground regarding the President Xi’s visit. Could you answer lang the sentiments of these protesters on the ground na ang pananaw po nila talaga is that the Duterte administration has surrendered the Philippine interest to China pabor po sa mga benefits like loans and—yes, could you answer that, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Well, I can understand where they are coming from; but again, as I said earlier, the President has a different tack in solving the problems confronting us. He is using diplomacy, negotiation and persuasion to get what we want.

PIA/ABS-CBN: So for all intents and purposes, sir, we have not become a province of China?

SEC. PANELO: Well, definitely not. Remember few months, I think two months ago when the Chinese government rudely used a language against us, the Philippine government. Do you remember what the President said? ‘Why are you using that kind of language? We are supposed to be neighbors. You don’t do that to us. Otherwise we will go to war.’ That’s the language of the President. And I’m even surprised why the media did not catch on that, that should have been headline.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Sir, last na lang. Sir, back to the pledges of support. It has been over—mga two years na, after President Duterte went home from Beijing na mayroong 24 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese loans and investment pledges. But right now only a fraction of that has materialized. Does this speak of the sincerity of the Chinese government in giving support to the Philippines?

SEC. PANELO: One professor was commenting that the fact that it’s two years, it is reassuring because the two countries would be studying all this proposed loans, what terms and conditions they—you kn0w what we’re forgetting is, there is bureaucracy, not only in this country but also in China. I have some friends who have been working on this project for two years but until now they haven’t succeeded. Why? Because according them, China and government has very stringent in requirements, Philippines has also stringent requirements. So it takes time, hopefully we will hurdle all this problems.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Last two, Dreo then Celerina. Friendly reminder please limit your follow up questions. Thank you.

DREO CALONZO:  Sir, what you are saying a while ago that the Philippines want other countries to unite to pressure China. But wasn’t this the approach of the previous administration, the multilateral approach which the current administration kind of stepped away from and stepped towards bilateral. So, hindi po ba—

SEC. PANELO:  Not really. The administration will use of all modes in solving the problem. Right now, it feels that the bilateral talks with China will work. If that fails, then multilateral discussions would come in.

DREO CALONZO:  So, bilateral talks will work. So just to clarify, you see it, still as—

SEC. PANELO:  As far as we are concerned right now, let’s try bilateral talks first. Let’s see how it goes, how far it will go.

DREO CALONZO:  Sir, given the territorial disputes we have on one side and the loans and the financial benefits that we are getting. So, if we are gonna weigh both of those, are we getting the benefits of our friendly ties with China two years after the President pivoted  towards Beijing?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, hopefully we will get them. That is precisely why we are having all these visits, these negotiations, these discussions. Hopefully.

DREO CALONZO:  So hopefully, so we were not yet getting it, because that’s a hope for—

SEC. PANELO: We are not getting yet, because we have only how much 140 million in dollars. We are still negotiating with the other… we are precisely going to—in the words of Ben Diokno, let’s demand for the fulfillment of these pledges. I’d rather use the word persuade, not demand. You know, if you use the word demand to them, they might react also. They might tell us, you wanna us to agree with what you are demanding from us.

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  Sir, any assurance like for instance your negotiating these huge loans with China. There could come a point na we will insist on the PCA ruling, China might use that to pressure us to like immediately pay the loan or parang gagamitin siya ng China as a leverage ganoon.

SEC. PANELO:   What will they do if we cannot pay the loan?

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  Just like what happened—

SEC. PANELO: Tell me, what will they do if we cannot pay the loan? Attack us?

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  Remember what happen to Northrail before, there was a loan agreements signed during the Arroyo administration, it did not push through. And when the Aquino administration came in and insisted on our rights over that West Philippine Sea, they demanded that we immediately pay the loan. So, the Philippine government paid the loan immediately even if it’s not yet like meron pang mga grace period. So, don’t you think baka magkaroon ng similar instance na ganoon?

SEC. PANELO:  Not in this presidency.

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  Yeah, not in this presidency but in the future.

SEC. PANELO:  No what I am saying, not in this kind of presidency, maybe during the previous presidency, it’s weaken up to—

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  How about in the future, like after kasi, we all know that until 2022 lang si President Duterte. So, in the next administration, still the Filipinos would suffer if magkaroon ng ganoon?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, my take is that, this President has set a standard of a leader in this country. And there is no other way from those who will succeed him to be like him – one underlying principle – serving and protecting this country. He has set the standard of how a leader should govern this country.

CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN:  So, the successor should like act like what the President is doing right now—

SEC. PANELO:  Yeah, should be like him. In other words, courageous, independent, diplomatic, creative. He is a thinking President.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Sir, regarding the President’s schedule doon sa… and you issued a statement on this earlier. You still did not say kung ano po iyong urgent domestic development that initially made the President think about cutting his foreign trip shorter?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, he didn’t tell us, but I suppose there was no more need for him to come to the Philippines whatever domestic concern he had in mind at that time. He was able to solve it even when he was there. But let me tell you that Secretary Locsin wanted him to attend only one day. He wanted him to rest, because it was a punishing schedule. You know, when we went to Singapore, what time did we arrive there, almost 12. And then we had a Cabinet meeting, it ended at about 2 o’clock in the morning and then another meeting for one hour. So, I think we slept at about 4 o’clock and the first event was 8 o’clock in the morning. How in the world can—that is precisely why he skipped certain events that can be skipped at because, one, that is only an opening, so it is not that important.

Number two, three and four, he has to read only a joint statements coming from the ASEAN countries and there was going to be a discussion among the Presidents. So he just tasked Secretary Locsin to read the statement for him. But the more important ones were three Presidents of three powerful countries were to address the members of the ASEAN Summit, he was there and he espoused his ideas vis-à-vis the concerned raised in that gathering.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  So, no idea at all, sir, on what this urgent domestic  development is, because if we recall before he cut his trip to Russia short, because he attended to the Marawi siege. So, we were asking you about this days ago, just in case if its of that—something that serious as well.

SEC. PANELO:  He didn’t tell us. But I can ask him maybe tonight.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  And how  it resolved exactly, did he task anyone here. Did he deal with the problem there?

SEC. PANELO:  That is precisely why I said, I’m going to ask him so that I can give you a concrete answer. I will ask him.

Q:  Sir, following up on that, sir. Aside from criticisms, President Duterte’s decision to skip several meetings in the ASEAN Summit drew a lot of criticisms to—93 year old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad. They are saying that if a 93 year old leader could attend all of these meetings, why can’t President Duterte. You reaction on that, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, for one, the physique of the two may not be exactly the same. There are people older and yet stronger they are younger ones, it depends. But—I saw President Mahathir not in all the meetings. In fact there were others who—as I pointed out in my statement, that the Chairman himself did not attend two meetings. He asked, I don’t know if that was a Deputy or Vice Premier to cover. President Trump did not attend, he was supposed to attend, he just sent his Vice President. But it does not mean as alleged by certain people that it’s laziness or that they are seriously ill. It’s fallacious.

Q:  Kaso sir ano, it also puts into question iyong energy and stamina of President Duterte to attend these kinds of events.

SEC. PANELO:  If you were there—I don’t know, you were there right? But did you notice us too? We were falling asleep and were—some of them are more younger, much younger than us. One of them, head of state, fell asleep during the meeting or two.

Q:  Sino, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  I will not mention. But if you were there, you would know. Rather than you know, rather than be embarrassed falling asleep there and the camera focusing on you. Eh,   mag-power nap ka na lang muna. Anyway, sandali lang naman iyon.

Q:  But, is President Duterte physically fit with this kind of—

SEC. PANELO:  My goodness. You know Pia his punishing schedule? This President has so many courtesy calls and then he flies, he shuttled back and forth to the provinces doing his duties as President and then he reads before sleeping until 6:00 o’clock in the morning, goes over reports and then gives directives, grabe, grabe siya. Bilib na bilib nga kami. We can hardly catch up with him eh. Talagang iba, napakasipag.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Okay, thank you, Malacañang Press Corps.

Q:  Wala kang update doon sa deal, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Wala pa, tinext na namin ang DFA. We will issue a statement as soon as we have it, para meron kayong istorya.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Thank you Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Thank you, MPC.

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