PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: Sir, there seems to be a very big disconnect between Malacañang’s remarks and the remarks especially in relation to the West Philippine Sea by the DND and DFA. For example, earlier you said the China policy of the President is working but if that’s the case, why do we still have all these reports from the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea? Why do we still have need to keep filing diplomatic protest even daily protest at one point? And why Secretary Lorenzana telling Chinese ships to go out?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, when I say it’s working, I’m not saying it’s perfect. So, kung mayroon talagang basehan para mag-file ng diplomatic protest, kinakailangan mag-file ng diplomatic protest kasi in international law, isang pamamaraan para mapawalang-bisa ang iyong claim to territory is kung mayroon kang acquiescence ‘no. So, kapag mayroon silang ginagawa na tingin natin labag sa ating claim, kinakailangan iprotesta ‘no para hindi tayo ma-accuse of estoppel or acquiescence ‘no. So, having a working policy does not mean it’s perfect, it’s not a perfect world ‘no. Kaya nga kinakailangan patuloy pa rin nating protektahan ang ating interes.
PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: But, sir, these problems have been there since the beginning of the Administration. Does the Palace consider or does the President consider changing the policy given that it’s been how many years already and we just see the same thing over and over again?
SEC. ROQUE: Again, I will bring you back to the reality. Wala pong Scarborough sa Administrasyon ni Presidente Duterte. Wala po tayong teritoryong nawala at kung gagayahin natin ang ginawa ni Secretary Albert at ni dating Senador Trillanes eh baka mawalan na naman tayo ng isla. So, that is proof that the President’s China policy is working.
PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: Sir, you also keep downplaying the findings of the National Task Force in the West Philippine Sea, for example, iyon nga na hindi daw part of the EZZ iyong Julian Felipe Reef and in earlier you said parang you muddled the remarks of the NTF when they said that over 200 ships are still in the West Philippine Sea. Sir, do you coordinate with the NTF, the DND, the DFA when you make statement like that? How does it go, the communication line, to make sure that you are all in the same page?
SEC. ROQUE: Well, unang-una po, I answer questions. Now, I offered actually to everyone kung gusto ninyo hindi ako sasagot ng tanong, isu-submit ang mga questions para kayo ang sumagot. Ayaw naman nila because that would mean na parang hindi natin alam ang sagot.
Pero wala pong inconsistency eh kasi siguro sa detalye, hindi ko naman alam kung nasaan iyang mga barko na iyan. So, I’m in no position to actually say anything but the policy of the President is consistent and has not changed and as I said, has worked. Now, ang problema you will never agree to that and I’m sure Rappler will never agree to that, so let’s just agree to disagree.
Pero iyong pula mo I don’t think holds water because all of the agencies will have to comply with the policy of the President kaya nga po mahirap na supilin ang pananalita ng Presidential Spokesperson unless talagang magdesisyon si Presidente na mali-mali ang mga pinagsasabi ko, in which case, sisisantehin niya ako. But I’m still talking today hindi ba po ‘no because the President is still the architect of foreign policy.
PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: But, sir, even a detail as simple as how far Julian Felipe Reef is from our baselines, how come that you don’t even know because that’s the basis of saying—
SEC. ROQUE: No, okay. Kaya nga po nilinaw ko eh. It’s the Arbitral Award, regardless of the distance, nilinaw ko eh. Pakita natin iyong slides ulit ‘no. Unang-una, it’s not me saying na hindi talaga siya Exclusive Economic Zone, it’s the Tribunal itself na sinabi na mayroong two high tide elevations.
Ang dapat intindihin ninyo, hindi ibig sabihin na palibhasa 200 nautical miles automatic iyan kasi pupuwede ngang magkaroon ng pockets of territorial sea at mas maraming karapatan ang bansa sa territorial sea, okay? Pupuwede ring mangyari po iyan doon sa pinag-aagawang Scarborough. In the end, mapupunta po iyan sa Pilipinas bagamat in possession of China and yet ang mangyayari po diyan magkakaroon ng pocket of territorial sea.
So, iyan po talaga ay desisyon ng Tribunal kaya nga po siguro it is a very complicated and obscure provision of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea but as I said, I always have a source and the source is the primary material – the Arbitral Ruling. So, iyon po ang aking nililinaw, hindi po sa akin nanggaling iyon, nanggaling po iyan sa Arbitral Tribunal Paragraph 1203 B3. Hughes Reef lies within 12 nautical miles of the high tide features of Mckennan Reef and Sin Cowe Island and therefore can be enclaved as territorial sea and not just part of the Exclusive Economic Zone.
So, mali iyong sinasabi mo, Pia. I’m sorry to say.
PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: Last question. So, given that iyon nga si DFA Secretary has flagged the remark you made, corrected it and then now you’re saying that, you know, you still have get to speak on these issues, what will be your next step to ensure that these contradictions won’t happen in the future given that the big consequences of different Cabinet members saying different things?
SEC. ROQUE: Kaya nga po sa lahat ng oportunidad eh binibigyan naman po ang Presidente ng access sa kaniya para masiguro na tama iyong pinagsasabi ko at sang-ayon sa kaniyang polisiya. Kaya po napapansin ninyo sa Talk to the People, well, matagal po iyong mga meeting namin pero matagal din iyong usapin namin na primarily on foreign affairs kasi iyon talaga ang importante na tama ang mga sinasabi ko ‘no.
At hindi naman po sinasabi ni Presidente na mali ang sinasabi ko. Kapag sinabi naman niya na talagang mali eh ‘di susunod tayo ‘no. Pero iyan po ang dynamics sa administrasyon ngayon ‘no, kaya maski wala akong sasabihin sa Talk to the People nandoon ako kasi sa panahon ng pandemya iyon lang ang pagkakataon na pupuwede kaming magkaroon ng konsulta.