Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque with Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar and Department Of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano

Event Press Briefing
Location Holiday Inn Golden Mile, Hong Kong

SEC. ROQUE: [AIRING STARTS]… the cause of trade liberalism at this time and age. Now as you know, as a result of this agreement, there was a grant of 500 million RMB or equivalent 3.8 billion given to the Philippines by China in terms of economic and infrastructure assistance.

Now in the bilateral talks: it was actually President Xi who mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue; although he highlighted the need to focus on promoting stability in the region and strengthening communication to avoid untoward incidents. There was a mention—a positive mention of continuing joint off-shore oil development in the area. Of course, both Philippines and China acknowledged that they will soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Now there was also mention of projects to be financed by the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, particularly flood control projects in Metro Manila. Amongst the bilateral agreements signed between the two countries included an agreement on economic and technical cooperation between the two governments; exchange of letters on phase 3 of the Technical Cooperation Project for the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology; exchange of letters for the pre-feasibility study of the proposed Davao City Expressway Project; letters on providing a batch of broadcasting equipment to the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Philippines and you can ask Secretary Andanar about it; Memorandum of Understanding on the deployment of Philippine teachers of English Language in China; preferential various current loan agreement on the Chico River Road Irrigation Project between the Export-Import Bank of China as lender and the government of the Republic of the Philippines acting by and through the Department of Finance as borrower.

As you know, there was also like 9.5 billion worth of projects – private projects witnessed – the signing of which were witnessed by the President. All of these projects clearly is basis for all Filipinos para maging happy with Duterte.

We will entertain questions now, and Secretary Martin Andanar, please on the broadcast equipment.

SEC. ANDANAR: Maraming salamat, Sec. Harry. Magandang gabi po! Good evening to everyone who’s here, the media and our fellow Filipinos who are watching the different channels in the Philippines, and on social media.

The Spokesperson did mention that China already did release, or gave us the go-signal to proceed with our radio projects in the Philippines, specifically improving the infrastructure of the Philippine Broadcast… PBS System. And one of the letters that I signed with my counterpart during the bilateral was 17 million renminbi aid that China has given the Philippines. And it is a very good indication that China is very committed to helping our government media in the Philippines improve its services. And that is just the beginning because I have spoken with Ambassador Zhao and he did mention that there’s another 100 million pesos that will be on its way for the Philippine Broadcast Service also, the PBS or the Philippine National Radio.

Now! During the bilateral also, it also gave me a reason to be very-very happy, with Duterte because President Xi also mentioned specifically the importance of media exchange between the Philippines and China and the rest of ASEAN. So this only means that the scholarships that China has been giving the country, the Philippines, specifically to the media members of government will continue for the next 4 years. So that was the first time that President Xi mentioned the importance of media exchange between our country and China.

And as you may know, that one of our major goals under the Duterte administration is to improve our government media – PTV, Radyo Pilipinas, Philippine News Agency and the Philippine Information Agency. Thank you.

SEC. ROQUE: Questions? I was still hoping to have Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano with us in 3 minutes. So may I ask that if you have questions asked on other issues other than on foreign relations, please…

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Secretary, what did the President mean when he said that China should defend the East?

SEC. ROQUE: Well ‘no, everyone basically in the meeting was talking about globalization, trade liberalization and of course that Asia was benefitting greatly from globalization and trade liberalization. So, basically it was an endorsement of China’s position that the world trading system should be governed by the rules based WTO system, and that there should be no obstacles to further globalizations and liberalization.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Defend daw ‘East’ from whom?

SEC. ROQUE: There was no mention against from whom. But of course, this was in relation to the possible trade war between the China and the United States.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: But you clarified that the President is not siding with anyone with regard to the trade—

SEC. ROQUE: No. He basically reiterated we’re not siding, but of course everyone in Boao was emphasizing on the need to further strengthen globalization and the need to further speedup trade liberalization to benefit everyone, rather than a return to isolationist trade policies.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Thank you Secretary…

MARY ANN BENITEZ/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: Secretary, I’m Mary Ann Benitez from South China Morning Post. I’d like to ask you, because it’s a bit fast – need to clarify whether all these are just memorandum of agreement or is it already in place? And how much altogether are we talking about in each of these projects that you’ve signed – I mean, President Duterte has signed – during the, I supposed during the talks with President Xi Jinping, right?

Just to clarify please, because you’re saying about 9.5 billion dollars worth of projects; I’m not sure whether it’s Yuan or US or Philippine peso. And also, the other thing is, can you talk more about the Belt and Road Initiative? Because it’s quite big in Hong Kong, you know, they’re trying to setup this initiative by sea you know, to somehow use this development program on the Silk Road in Asia and also Europe and globally.

So the other thing, the other question I’ve got is the Filipino English teachers which we know about but, could you just clarify.

And Mr. Andanar, exactly you’re talking about this media cooperation which is quite unusual right? Beats for China, as you know there is media control. So how does that fit with the Philippine system of democracy?

SEC. ROQUE: Let me first answer that there’s a distinction between the bilateral agreements entered into by the Philippine government; and let me hasten to add that the President did not sign anything – he witnessed the signing, as far as the bilateral agreements are concerned although they were entered into by the two sovereign states, the President witnessed the agreements – the line secretaries, respective line secretaries were the ones who entered into these agreements.

Now the 500 million renminbi or 3.8 billion was part of the agreements signed by Secretary Dominguez. Now the 9.5 billion were private agreements, memorandum signed between private entities that who intend to invest in the Philippines, and the President was witness to these agreements. And of course the agreements, the memorandum of intent or memorandum of agreement were signed on the part of private investors and the Department of Trade and Industry. So, two sets of agreements – it’s a private investments and the bilateral agreements.

I think Secretary Andanar… there’s a question

MARY ANN BENITEZ/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: Sorry. If there are memorandum of agreements, which means the money is not cast in stone shall we say, right? And also, is there a timeframe? Is it in the next 5 years or 10 years?

SEC. ROQUE: They all had their own individual timeframes. So I can’t really answer which one.

MARY ANN BENITEZ/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: So can you [overlapping voices]… Is it possible to have those details if you can?

SEC. ROQUE: I think yes, so DTI can provide you details with these things. But I can’t do it now if that’s what you’re saying because there were quite a number of agreements signed on private investments.

SEC. ANDANAR: Thank you, Harry. We must look into the beauty about this media exchange program with China in terms of the technology and the technical know-how that we can learn from television, radio, print and online. We all know that the Xinhua News Agency is one of the most successful news agencies in the world, and CCTV is also one of the largest broadcasting television network in the world; China Radio International also. So in terms of management, in terms of the technology that they are using, we in the Philippine government media have so much to learn from them. So we should look at it from that point of view. But in terms of reporting, I’m sure that we have different ideologies and different paradigms in reporting. Thank you.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, good afternoon. In the meeting of Chinese investors with the President, did any investor, businessmen or capitalist mention about putting up a casino in Boracay?

SEC. ROQUE: No one.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Okay, another question, when—before he left for Boracay, he did mentioned that he doesn’t know anything about putting up a casino in that area. But there are reports back in December, a courtesy call made by those investors who are interested in putting up their casino. What does the Palace explanation on this?

SEC. ROQUE: I’m not sure what the question is.

HENRY/DZRH: President Duterte denied in fact that he knows something about the casino, possible putting up the casino in Boracay. But there are reports that he entertained all those investors in Malacañang back in December. So he denied, but in fact entertained those investors of the casino. So—

SEC. ROQUE: Well of course, we welcome all investors. But I think the President has already addressed the issue of a new casino in Boracay: “There will be no new casino in Boracay.”

HENRY/DZRH: So the Palace stand by its—

SEC. ROQUE: That’s President’s declaration. I don’t have to annotate. He said so in his departure statement. It was not a statement—departure statement, it was his own words so we can’t modify his words.

HENRY/DZRH: Alright.

Q: Secretary, may ano lang, si Tuesday Niu from Manila. May sinasabi raw ba si PRRD na invalid iyong nilagdaan ng PAGCOR for casino ng galaxy sa Boracay? Anong mangyayari roon, hindi ba iyon makasisira sa pino-promote ng Pangulo na magandang sistema raw ng pagnenegosyo sa bansa?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I do not know what the status is. But the President’s thinking is that – because of the Supreme Court decision that Boracay is state owned – he, as President would have to make a proclamation whenever there is a particular use intended for any portion of Boracay. And that’s the context by which he said: “perhaps we will give it to the farmers.” Now as I said the President is always serious but let’s not take him literally; perhaps what the President was saying is that Boracay should be used and should be for the benefit of all Filipinos and not just the owners of the rich resort establishments. I would like to welcome Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, thank you for joining us. And now you can ask questions on Foreign Affairs. So I think I’ve answer that, your question on Boracay casino.

Q: So, sir what will happen to the provisional license granted by PAGCOR to Galaxy Casino since the President made that declaration that there would be no casinos in Boracay?

SEC. ROQUE: Well you see, the President was highlighting that because of the decision of the Supreme Court on Boracay, it is the President that could actually authorize – through proclamation – how Boracay should be utilized. So perhaps the license will—if there is any at all, I do not know this will be resolve. But as far as Boracay is concerned: he wants the people to benefit from Boracay; he wants—you know the closure of Boracay to foreign tourist was intended to preserve the island for the next coming generations to be recognized and that be remembered as a paradise island and that’s the latest pronouncement of the President. Okay?

Q: Maybe it is more appropriate for Secretary Cayetano. One of the—I think it was Manila Bulletin who said that President Xi Jinping has accepted an invitation from President Duterte to visit Hong Kong—I mean not Hong Kong but visit the Philippines in November. Can you just confirm that and also what’s the reason for that and the state visit and do we have enough protection for the Chinese President to really host him in state visit?

SEC. CAYETANO: Well let me start by quoting President Xi Jinping over dinner and during the bilaterals. He quoted President Duterte during their first meeting. What President Duterte told him and President Xi repeated is that, he said: “Mr. President I remember in our first meeting, you told me, what is important is you know me and I know you and you trust me and I trust you.” Then President Xi Jinping went on to say, this is the essence of state-to-state relationship, the mutual trust. You know, there are no perfect relationships among nations around the world, there are struggles, there are challenges but when the leaders and of course their people trust each other, then you are giving the momentum and the platform to resolve issues.

So high level visits like the three visits of the President to China, the visit of the Chinese premier to Manila during the 50th anniversary for ASEAN, you know are invaluable. You know issues are resolve, cooperation, and plans to collaborate are put together and this face-to-face diplomacy and face to face interacti0n really grows the relationship. So I will confirm that we have invited President Xi for number of times and he accepted subject to the time that’s mutually convenient.

So we are readying for the end of the year but we don’t have any final plans yet. So we haven’t got word from them because usually you know what happens there is that they proposed a date, then we say if it’s acceptable or not or we give them a couple of dates and everything pushes through. But it depends on the culture and tradition of that country and I’ve noticed the Chinese when they have a state visits it’s very much well prepared and there are a lot of agreements, there are a lot of projects that are lined-up aside from the existing projects. So it’s not going to be simply President Xi and President Duterte meeting. There’s gonna be substantive agreements, there’s gonna be announcements, there’s gonna be a boost in the momentum of our relationship.

MARY ANN BENITEZ/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: Just follow up, please. I’m from the Morning Post, Mary Ann. The security precautions, precautions for President Xi, will it be the same sort of security that we are seeing for President Duterte in Hong Kong although it’s an unofficial visit, one; and also how prepared are we especially considering the bus hostage situation – when was that? – in 2015 under Noynoy, right?

SEC. CAYETANO: 2010. 2010, yes.

MARY ANN/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: Because as you know Chinese people have long memory and because of this bus hostage situation, people are afraid of going to the Philippines. That’s why maybe it’s the reason why our tourist arrivals in the Philippines, is a bit you know, not really satisfactory when compared to Thailand or Japan, Korea or the mainland, even. So can you just address the situation (overlapping voices).

SEC. CAYETANO: Well if will allow me say two or three minutes and the rest of the press corps – good evening – to address your last statement because that’s a valid and important statement wherein people are asking: is it safe to travel to the Philippines? You maybe referring to certain crimes committed or experiences by some foreigners in the past or you maybe referring to a concerted effort by some ideological groups around or political groups around the world who is really trying to sell the world an image of impunity and lack of rule of law in the Philippines. That’s why the trust of the Department of Foreign Affairs, aside from OFWs and economic diplomacy, is been inviting people who are judging us to go to the Philippines.

I’ll give you a quick example ‘no, freedom of the press. Sure there are issues. I will not debate here that the safety of the press, media is paramount. There are issues we are facing. Rappler recently had an issue with both the SEC and the Palace. So we are not denying any of that! But I asked my friends in the western media: what’s more free, your media or our media? Couldn’t answer!

So I asked them: Can you in your country say that a politician or the President is a murderer if you don’t have any proof? Can you say that a politician is corrupt without giving any details? In the Philippines you can. In Singapore you have to have the proof if not, whether defamation or libel. In the US it’s the same thing, in Europe it’s the same thing. But in the Philippines the reality is whether on Facebook, on your webpages or on newspapers, you can practically say anything because we lean towards the leniency, the freedom of expression more than the responsibility of this freedom.

So it is the same thing, before the Duterte administration, precisely the issue of ordinary people were safety. You know, families were being massacred, two-year old, one-year old, five-year old women were being—children were being raped. Families were being torn apart literally, abused left and right, and if you look at the statistics 77,000 have been murdered during the Aquino administration.

So but since it’s not what the liberal Left calls the extrajudicial killings or because President Aquino and his team talked politically correct, they were not showing a picture of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Comes Duterte, who says that I want a safe and comfortable life, suddenly the Philippines is the wild, wild east.

But come on over! We do have our problems, we do have our issues but people are saying: it’s safer now. People are walking the streets in the evening and people are afraid to sell drugs. Some of our ASEAN neighbors are telling us: you know give us some advice on drugs because it is increasing here. And what did some of our security people say? They’re moving to you because they are scared to do it in the Philippines because we know we will deal with you decisively.

So question, can we assure foreign dignitaries of safety when they go to the Philippines? As we all know, when there’s a visit, extraordinary naman iyong preparations for security and APEC in 2015 and the 50th year of ASEAN last year is proof not only of the brilliance, resilience, creativity of Filipinos in hosting, but also of our security forces. Our police and military and other security forces from the local government to the national government have gotten pretty good.

You know how many heads of state were in the Philippines both sa APEC and sa ASEAN. But you know it’s not only the President is concerned and wants people to be—we believe that people are happy with President Duterte. We believe the President is happy with what’s happening now. But the happiness or content of people will be decided: whether they feel safe in their homes; in school; in work; whether they feel safe going to the office and not. That’s why when there are abuses whether it’s by the police or military, we take it seriously. But we also have to take seriously the drug problem. So directly answering your question, yes we have assured that Chinese of, you know, not only great hospitality, warm welcome but also of the necessary security preparations.

SEC. ROQUE: And I’d like to dispute your last statement that there has been a decline in the arrival of Chinese tourist. On the contrary, since President Duterte took over, there’s… double! Almost double the number of Chinese visitors to the Philippines, from 500 thousand to almost a million now – just for the record.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Secretary Roque, just a clarification on Boracay, if you say you don’t know the status of Galaxy. But in general kung mayroong permit iyong isang company na balak magtayo ng casino sa Boracay – given this new policy now of the President – is it deemed revoked?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I can’t say because you see, the license must have been issued by PAGCOR. But the President was talking about the physical existence of a casino in Boracay ‘no, which he will not allow unless he has issued a proclamation to this effect, because of the decision that Boracay, the island is state-owned. So they could have a provisional license if they can’t build in Boracay, perhaps they could build elsewhere, that’s why I’m not saying unequivocally about the status of the Galaxy contract. But if the building of the casino in Boracay is what is at issue, then I have to reiterate already what the President personally said. I don’t have to annotate what the President has already stated.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: When can we expect this proclamation, and what will this proclamation contain?

SEC. ROQUE: Well as I said, it’s up to the President to decide who will be given actually tenurial rights in Boracay. He has said that he would like to give priority to the ordinary Filipino, to the farmers if they are. But for the time being, the task at hand is to preserve Boracay for the future generation.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So when, wala pa pong..?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala namang timeline.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Wala pang timeframe! Okay, thank you Sec.

Q: Tama ba sir, you earlier said na na-void na iyong license? Void ab initio?

SEC. ROQUE: Well I did send that text message, because as far as Boracay is concerned, I did clarify this with the President. And the President said, “As far as Boracay is concerned, I have not issued any proclamation that will authorize any casino in Boracay itself.” And so—but I can’t address the issue of the license, because that just means, maybe they can open shop elsewhere. But I do not know, but as far as Boracay is concerned, that’s the Presidential proclamation on the matter.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, iyong pagsasailalim ng Boracay Island sa Agrarian Reform, kailan ho—Ito ba talaga plano ng Pangulo na mangyari at—after ba noong paglilinis dito, wala nang turistang papayagan? Isasailalim ba agad ito sa Agrarian Reform law?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po. Ang ini-emphasize lang Presidente unang-una, linisin muna natin ang Boracay nang sigurado tayo na iyong susunod na henerasyon ay makita ang kagandahan ng Boracay. Pangalawa, sisiguraduhin niya na magbenepisyo ang ordinaryong Pilipino sa Boracay, hindi iyong mga nagmamay-ari ng mga dambuhalang mga resorts diyan.

Pero hindi naman intensiyon na wala nang papupuntahin sa Boracay. Ang gusto nga natin eh kaya natin lilinisin, para hindi masira ang Boracay at makita ng lahat ang Boracay. Makilala ng lahat ang Boracay bilang isang paraiso!

HENRY URI/DZRH: So right now, anong pinag-uusapan – buong Boracay or part lang ng Boracay ang isasailalim sa Agrarian Reform?

SEC. ROQUE: Well ang sabi ko nga po, titingnan po natin ‘yan dahil ang emphasis ng Presidente makinabang iyong mga maliliit na nandodoon na sa Boracay. So alam mo, iyang proklamasyon na iyan, wala pong bago naman diyan, dahil mayroon naman tayong batas talaga. It’s a law, it’s not just a program – it’s a comprehensive agrarian reform law. So kung mayroon talagang mga claimants diyan, eh di dapat ma-process ang kanilang mga claims ng Department of Agrarian Reform.

So kung wala namang claimants diyan, at ang issue is paano ngayon ang gagawin dahil karamihan ng Boracay ay wala pang titulo? Well, diyan papasok ngayon ang Presidente kasi siya iyong may kapangyarihan magproklama kung anong mangyayari doon sa mga titulo na iyan para umusad iyong proseso ng pagtititulo. Pangalawa po iyong pag-issue rin ng titulo, ‘yan po’y nakabinbin pa sa Kongreso. Kasi ang kapangyarihan ng Presidente eh to proclaim na alienable and disposable.

Ngayon po kasi karamihan diyan forest preserve, pero iyong pag-i-issue ng title diyan, dahil ito nga isang forest preserve, iyan po’y nakabinbin pa sa Kongreso. Kaya nga po iyan ang naging resulta noong desisyon ng Korte Suprema, na kinakailangan magkaroon ng batas para maging basehan na magkaroon ng titulo.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Under the law, iyong mga walang titulo ho, anong mangyayari kung—?

SEC. ROQUE: Well unang-una po ang sabi ni Presidente, kapag nagkaroon na talaga ng pagkakataon na mag-i-issue ng titulo, sisiguraduhin niya iyong mga mamamayan muna ang makikinabang, hindi muna iyong mga resorts, okay. So pangalawa po ngayon under the law, iyong mga may tax declarations po sila – kung qualified na pursuant to the law – then their tenurial, iyong kanilang possession ang magiging isa sa basehan ng pag-i-issue ng titulo sa kanila. So importante rin mapatunayan na kayo po ay in open, continues possession of land, na wala pang titulo para mabigyan rin kayo ng titulo.

Q: Sir, you mentioned that the two leaders discussed joint off-shore oil development.

SEC. ROQUE: No, I didn’t mention. I’ve mentioned that it was raised, but there was no substantial discussion. But Secretary Cayetano will answer that.

SEC. CAYETANO: You know—as you know in the bilaterals, there are—there’s limited time. And just like this ‘di ba, you probably all have a thousand questions, but you limit yourself to one plus one follow up or two plus two follow ups. So in the bilaterals, we prepare what our side wants their side to hear and discuss, and what their side. So as President Duterte said you know, the consensus is holding; the Chinese have not build and continue to commit to us that they will not build on uninhabited areas, including Scarborough. They have committed to us that Section 5 of DOC, and we have committed not only to them but to ASEAN, that we will not do things that will further complicate.

Of course there is still a problem in the inhabited features, not only Philippines, China but also Malaysia, Vietnam and other claimants. So the Chinese side brought up the fact that the South China Sea, there’s been positive momentum; Number two, that it is a complex issue because unlike the East China Sea where the issues are more simple, because it’s between China and Japan, and the issues can be laid out quite—mas madali lang talaga eh. But in South China Sea, you know there’s a territorial claim; there’s a claim under UNCLOS; there’s multiple claimant’s; and then, there’s the security aspect of all the nations there.

Then, there’s also issue of what are the rights of those from outside the region which includes freedom of navigation, freedom of over flight and freedom to put submarine cables in accordance with the international law. So basically President Xi said that, you know these are complex issues; these are issues that you know, evoke a lot of emotions and the public is very concerned about, so we have to take into consideration public opinion from all sides. But this is an issue if handled properly you know, can make the South China Sea an area of peace and stability.

So he did mention that, if the Philippines would consider joint exploration – we’re speaking to exploration first, we’re not discussing development yet; not at least in a manner that as advanced as joint exploration. So basically, that’s where Xi stopped in saying that China – if that’s what the Philippines wants – is willing to discuss and find the solution in that area. And that’s where President Duterte jumped in to say, you know, that it’s important that our people see the benefit of our relationship. It’s important that we get something out of there.

But you know, it was clear to both sides that we will stick to our guns, we’ll stick to our claims and let’s see how we can get anything from there. So this wasn’t discussed, this part. But first exploration is simply seeing what’s there eh. It’s a research work, hindi ba? Finding out how much oil, how much gas if any is there! Now once we see the amounts and everything, then we can go to the next step: is it viable; is there a commercial quantity; what’s the quality of the oil that’s there ‘no. And from there, that’s the only time that you have to think about development you know.

And way back last year, we already told the world including Chinese, including some of the critics in the Philippines that we—these are a contracts that is as good, or better than Malampaya. Why as good, or better than Malampaya? Because Malampaya is in undisputed; is in an area that there is no dispute. It’s fully under Philippine laws, yet we’re getting 60/40. So the reason we want that, not only so that it can favor the Philippines and the Filipino people can enjoy – the benefit of these natural resources – but also so that there will be no question to anyone that under the Constitution, under the laws the Filipinos are getting what is due to us.

Because if they’re gonna give the same deal that Malampaya did, and this is areas that are disputed versus undisputed, how can you argue with that? But as I said, that’s going in advance which is our job, our job in negotiations or seeking out the opinion of other claimants, I have talked to other countries about it including the other claimants, and have assured them that we will talk to China in areas that the dispute is only between the Philippines and China. If the areas are disputed by Vietnam, Philippines and China… then the three of us will talk if there will be any talks. If it’s between the four of us, with Malaysia, with Brunei, that five… so, that’s how we will approach it. We will not make any enemies. Now we are building friendship with everyone.

So that’s—so maybe the question is: how important was that statement made by the two leaders? Very important because it’s basically the go signal to come up with a framework and if it’s acceptable by both sides, then we could see the joint exploration done soon.

Q: Sir, do you have a timeline, because Ambassador Sta. Romana quoted you, saying that you hope to finalize this within a couple of months?

SEC. CAYETANO: Actually for us, because Malampaya will be running out in a couple of years and the market for LNG is growing, you know the technology is also there. Several countries including China and Japan are interested in the—well in several projects which includes the storage and how the transshipment of LNG is done.

So let me put it this way. If our legal minds – the DFA, the Department of Energy, Malacañang and some of our consultants – can come up with a framework tomorrow, I will send that to the Chinese tomorrow. If they can sent it back to us the next day, and they say they agree, then you know we can start drafting the MOU or the agreement and vetting it for official okay.

So the difference between the joint exploration and the present exploration that’s being done under the Department of Energy is that, may standard na sila eh ‘di ba? They know how to either bid it out or the service contract areas; they know how to—everything is black and white already. So, you’re a company who wants to do exploration or development in the Philippines you know, you find a partner, this is what you do, this is the legal requirements.

But in this case, you know, it’s an extraordinary situation because there are territorial disputes. So we will not be giving up any part of our territory; experts from around the world have told us – you cannot divide territory, territory is indivisible! But sovereignty rights by its nature, its economic rights. So if I give you a car and I say it’s still mine but you can make money out of it, it’s your choice – you wanna use it as a taxi, Grab, Uber… you wanna lease it out, you wanna park and make it you know, a tourist attraction or selfie attraction if it’s a really nice car – it’s up to you ‘no.

So just because we have economic rights over our EEZ, does not mean that we cannot you know, have our own arrangements with other countries – a good example of that is tuna fishing. We do fish in other areas, exclusive economic zone of other countries, but we get licenses. We pay fees; we pay taxes to those licenses that are given. So it really depends on the situation and our technical and financial capability, and then of course the legal framework.

But the bottom line here is that, after all these fighting regarding the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, are the Filipinos going to get anything out of it. And if we are gonna get anything, is it gonna be a fair share in accordance with both the law and morality you know.

Q: Two different topics. First of all just on the potential trade war between the US and China, are you worried about that impacting the Philippines and the region and just again, what do you mean by, it’s time for China to protect the East?

SEC. ROQUE: I’ve actually answered that earlier.

Q: No, it’s chance of impact on the Philippines and also you know – you say that you are impartial about – what do you mean by that, by the comment about you, know China protecting East?

SEC. CAYETANO: Well, let me take on the question about the trade war. In all kinds of war, there are no winners and I think everyone acknowledges that and all around the world: smart people; brilliant people; economist; people in finance are banging their heads in how to prevent an all-out trade war around the world and how to—you know make economist more inclusive. And in the Philippines we know too well that when America sneezes the rest of the world gets a cold. You know that’s something we heard a lot in 70s, 80s. We heard again during the Asian Financial crisis in ‘97 and of course in 2007. So now if US is sneezing and China is coughing, you know definitely the Philippines will somehow be susceptible to the flu. So but you know, there are flu shots already available.

So our economic team is doing everything to try to bullet-proof our economy but as you know there is no such thing as bullet-proof in economy. We just can do our best you know, put our experts on the industries that we want to flourish, we want the investment, we want to attract. So we are hoping that this so called trade war will be short-lived and we are hoping it doesn’t affect us too much especially because we are on I think, is it 6th year or 7th year of economic progress—of good economic progress. Now, in terms of—I don’t know really that. Who said that statement about China protecting the East?

Q: [off mic].

SEC. CAYETANO: It is a multipolar world. It’s not the cold war anymore. It’s not black and white and left and right and you know. So we do know that superpowers around the world have different rules which we all have the same rules. But the reality is super powers have different rules. Cuba was not part of the territory of the US but they did not allow the Soviets at that time, the former USSR to put missiles there. And USSR did not have any claims on Turkey but they did not allow the missiles there. That’s why the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and when the USSR said that we will not, okay we will not continue putting missiles on Cuba, part of the deal was taking out the missiles from Turkey.

So ours is not saying that China is correct or China should do this or etcetera. But we have to recognize they are a rising power, if not already a superpower. And any superpower will be careful about their national security. So if multiple claimants and there are different claimants are putting some defensive assets on the features they hold and then other maritime powers are sending their ships into the South China Sea, of course you know, there are two reactions either one, we feel safer or the other reaction is there might be arms race and we don’t want that. The Philippines is the only claimant aside from Brunei, that’s nothing putting any military assets on—even defensive assets on the features we hold. So we wanna play a productive role.

We want a rollback you know or return to how the features in the South China Sea was 20, 30, 40 years ago. But it’s not gonna happen if it’s only the Philippines who are talking. So all the players in the region, including the players outside the region, have to talk! Because if not you know, it will not be solve. And I think one of the Undersecretaries told us when we were on our way, when we are in Boao is that, you know China has a right to its national security.

So we are not saying, we agree with what they are doing. But we have to have empathy to be able to deal with them, talk to them and build mutual trust. So you know, a lot of—I think most, is it 70 percent of China’s economy is through that channel and through costal states. So if you reverse it, if China was the US or China was Canada or China was Great Britain. You know, they’d be very conscious about security there because their whole economy and national security you know is dependent on that sea lane you know, and that area of the ocean.

Q: One more question on a different topic. Does your government have any questi0ns for Facebook about the apparent data breach which affected, I think over a milli0n of Filipinos—

SEC. ROQUE: I’ve answered that. The current Finance Secretary who was treasurer of the President’s campaign said he did not pay even a single centavo to Cambridge Analytica. And that he had no transactions at all with Cambridge Analytica.

Q: Sorry that wasn’t my question. It was just intensive, in general of the apparent data breach.

SEC. ROQUE: We have our domestic law, privacy act and we will enforce that act. Now the data breach as far as we know did not occur in the Philippines. So but we have taken steps as you know, no less than a Chairman of a Constitution Commission, the Constitutional (Commission?) on Elections has a pending case now before the prosecutor’s office for breach of the privacy act, for not safeguarding the data of voters in the Philippines. So we take privacy very seriously in the Philippines.

Q: Thank you.

SEC. CAYETANO: Just quickly, you know from a—I think from a regular Filipino’s point of view. Of course there are concerns about privacy but on the other hand is also concern about the future of Facebook, because Facebook has made the Philippines much more democratic. So suddenly if you are from—just like the internet, there’s now a platform for e-commerce, there’s a platform to communicate whether you are student organizations or you are a budding social… whether you are an influencer, whether you are an event organizer. So Facebook has been a good friend to the Filipino and there are challenges. So if your good friend told other good friends about your secrets, you know you have a problem with your good friend.

So definitely there’s problem of this data breach but we are also concern about our friend which is Facebook. So we’re eagerly monitoring and watching and it is all over Facebook, you know, how there are leadership or Facebook is answering the US Congress and we have had I think three hearings in the Senate about fake news and Facebook has been part of that, you know. So one hand it such a blessing and it’s created so much opportunity. On the other hand of course we’re also concern about privacy.

Q: Hi my name is [unclear] and I’m from CNN as well. This question is for the Foreign Secretary. You mentioned that there are easing tensions on the South China Sea and Spokesperson Harry also mentioned the large amounts of high investment going to the Philippines from China. I was wondering if it’s fair to say that Philippines position on China right now is prosperity first; sovereignty, second?

SEC. CAYETANO: Are you from the US? No?

Q: No.

SEC. CAYETANO: I only asked because I wanted to check if you are from the US then you know US history. The French help the United States become an independent nation. And when the French had their revolution, they asked the Americans for help. But the Americans had to think what’s best for them at that point in time. And they decided not to help the French in the French revolution. So did America go for prosperity first before sovereignty or before they are ideals or their principles?

So each nation whether it is China, Singapore, US, Canada acts within its interest. And I’ll ask you, what nation wants to have an argument with their neighbors? So, if you say prosperity first before sovereignty, that means we’re giving up our sovereignty. So it is the same thing if you are saying to the America, you gave up your principle, so that you’ll have prosperity. I don’t believe, I believe that they made the decision based on the information that was there and look what was good for America at that time and they made that decision and we can point out to a lot of historical decisions by many countries that people might not have agree with but it’s best for their people.

So we are not giving up a single inch of our sovereignty nor sovereignty rights. Our critics – not only in the Philippines, but outside – are making it appear that because there’s an arbitration war there’s no more dispute. But there are two disputes: it’s the territorial dispute and; the dispute under UNCLOS. And what the arbitration Court dealt with was the UNCLOS dispute and there is no enforcement mechanism in the arbitration court and President talk to our allies, our Western allies and ask them or if we start digging for oil—right drilling for oil there, will you send our ships and will you guard our ships? You know what was the answer of our Western allies? We don’t get involve in issues of territorial claims.

So what are we going to do? Are we going to end—it’s the same thing with Malaysia and Vietnam. We have claims against them. So do we stop our relationship or we do start fighting Vietnam and Malaysia? Do we start arguing with them in every forum available, because we have a dispute regarding sovereignty?

So your question is fair and it is being asked around the world and I get those questions whether in private meeting or in press briefings. But it’s not really between prosperity and sovereignty it’s how you fight for your sovereignty and at the same time take care of your people.

So the prosperity of the Filipinos coming from China is not because we gave up sovereignty but because how we are dealing with issues of territorial claims and sovereignty. China has not asked us and I can tell you this very honestly whether close door or in open. They have never asked us to give up our claims. They have simply asked us to put some order in how we will discuss these claims and where we should discuss these claims.

And you have seen how ASEAN was handled last year and you saw our statements. And the Philippines was able to steer it quite well, and I have to give the credit to the Filipinos, you know. So, I’m willing to further discuss this at other forums but you know we are open to ideas on how to fight for our sovereignty, territorial terms etcetera.

But as of now, if we compare the Aquino administration strategies and the Duterte strategy, we simply making do with a bad situation but we have stop the bleeding. Meaning we have stopped other claimants from getting new features, we have started discussion on the COC, we have jumpstarted relationship: People to people; cultural exchanges; educational exchanges; military to military. And let me finish with this, you know. Yes we want to fight for what is ours but we don’t want a war. And no one in our region wants a war because no one will win you know.

So if you look it’s only the Philippines who are not… you know building up our defenses in the futures we hold. Why? We rather spend our money on education on health, you know, of course we want an aircraft carrier. We want a submarine someday you know and that’s part of your national security and part of keeping your people safe you know. But what good is it to have the best military if your people are starving, if your people don’t have jobs. If you’re people are forced to leave the country and if your people are not safe, you know our priority is really is building our economy and keeping our people safe. Thank you.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Okay, thank you Secretary Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you very much and good evening.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Back to our main studio in the Philippines, People’s Television and Radyo Pilipinas.

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SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)

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