Press Briefing

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

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Bldg., Malacanang

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good noon Malacañang Press Corps, nandito na si Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo. Good afternoon, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Good noon, MPC. Before any question, I’d like to issue a statement by the President; it’s a major statement. He directed the Solicitor General, the Department of Justice Secretary and all legal departments to review, evaluate, scrutinize every contract entered by the government and/or its agencies with private corporations and/or countries and determine whether there are onerous provisions in the contract that will put the Filipino people in disadvantage or in violation of the Constitution. That’s it.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Hi, sir. You mentioned—so the directive was given to SolGen, DOJ and all legal departments. Will there be, let’s say a panel formed or kaniya-kaniya iyon kada agency?

SEC. PANELO: No, iyon na ‘yun. Addressed to them.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Okay. Sir, how many contracts are we talking about—

SEC. PANELO: All contracts, existing contracts. They will have to be subjected to scrutiny.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, what is the context of that, when that directive was made? Why did the President—

SEC. PANELO: Because he found out that during the Ramos administration, there was a contract between Maynilad—is that Maynilad or Manila Waters? Maynilad and the Republic of the Philippines. And in that contract, the government, the Republic of the Philippines was prohibited into interfering, intruding into the terms of the contract – and that’s why we lost in the arbitration tribunal and I think we were made to pay 3.5 billion-something pesos. Because according to the ruling, the government intervened, and by reason of the intervention, Maynilad suffered damages. And the President could not believe that how can a contract like this entered by the government imposing a ban on the government to take government action with respect to such item as water services.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: In the statement you sent to us this morning sir, you mentioned that that case will also be studied by the SolGen I understand?

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: What for? Does the President want to appeal because lapse na po iyong period to appeal or is it so that—

SEC. PANELO: To prosecute. Look… you know, that contract was entered into by the government and drafted by lawyers of the government – there could be collusion between the lawyers of the government and the lawyers of the private company. We cannot do that, we have to prosecute them.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Go after those behind that contract—

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Is that what you’re saying?

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Okay. Sir, lastly. When you say onerous provisions that might be detrimental to the lives of the Filipino people, that’s a bit vague. Can you tell us how? Ano ba? Are these primarily contract—

SEC. PANELO: Like that for instance, that’s a very onerous provision when you prohibit your own government from interfering with the terms of the contract. You can’t even do anything when there is… or there are losses.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: For example sir, kasi karamihan noong—of course, we have plenty right now of infrastructure, let’s say road works projects. What could be onerous provisions na the President is looking out for?

SEC. PANELO: We’ll have to examine every provision of the contract. Anything that is against public policy or against the law, or against the Constitution, we will have to strike it down.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Did the President give a timeline sir on when—I mean, will agencies be reporting at a certain day to the President?

SEC. PANELO: Immediately. It will be a continuing investigation on the contracts.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Thank you, sir.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyon pong review of ‘all’ contracts include the recently signed China loans?

SEC. PANELO: Well definitely, every contract.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Any particular provision that may be you think could be potentially onerous to the government with regard to, specifically maybe Kaliwa and then Chico Dam—

SEC. PANELO: I cannot say unless I see the contract itself.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Would you say sir, that the one—that the provision that’s being questioned by Justice Carpio with regard to our patrimonial assets could be onerous?

SEC. PANELO: You know I have already discussed that. If Justice Carpio was referring to the [Reed Bank] Bank Reef, that cannot be alienated. That is why I said, ‘if that was the subject of his concern, then it’s misplaced.’ What patrimonial property is – are the gas, the oil underneath the earth and you have to extract that to get money. And when you get the profit, you share it with the government as well as the concessionaire – and that’s the part where that can be alienated. Meaning to say, that can be seized in payment of our debt. And that is why I said, ‘what is the difference between paying our debt coming from the Treasury and one coming from the profit that we get out of the extraction of the oil and gas.’

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Uhum. So profiting with China is okay?

SEC. PANELO: No. What I’m saying is—you know, when you have an obligation, you have 100 million pesos for instance obligation and then you cannot pay that, so you get a portion of the profit coming out of the extraction of the oil and gas. In other words, it appears as if—I don’t know if this is the theory of Justice Carpio, as if we will give all the oil and the gas that can be found there. No, it cannot go beyond our obligation.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So, they cannot probably just specifically takeover—

SEC. PANELO: Oh certainly not. They cannot do that.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So sir bottom line is that, that provision that’s being questioned, you are not looking into that as being onerous?

SEC. PANELO: To me, as a lawyer, it’s not. Because it’s just like an arbitral ruling for instance, where we are supposed to pay an obligation we have not paid and then getting a part of the profit that we get out of the extraction of those natural resources and paying them. It cannot go beyond our obligation.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. So sir, the review—

SEC. PANELO: That is why I was saying he was right and I was right, because I was referring to the Bank Reef and he was referring to the products underneath the Earth.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: You mean the Reed Bank, ano po.

SEC. PANELO: Yes, iyong Reed Bank mismo.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So sir, just one last point. So the review is aimed at finding out if there are similar provisions like the one in the Maynilad contract?

SEC. PANELO: Yes. Yes, yes…

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. Thank you, sir.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, just one quick follow up. So it includes all contracts entered into by the government including those have already being executed or those which are about to be executed?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, because even if it is executed if it is in violation of the Constitution, you can rescind it, you can strike it down. And ask the court to rescind it.

In other words, the President is warning all and sundry that for as long as he is the President, he will not allow anything that will go against the interest of the Filipino people. He will use the Constitution, all the powers given him to protect the Filipino people and to serve them faithfully. And he said yesterday or last night, and I will quote him: “And I couldn’t care less whether I will be jailed for it, I will be assassinated for it, I will be ousted for it, I’ll die for it – it doesn’t matter. I cannot allow it for as long as I’m the President,” those were his exact words.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Well, Secretary, one of the qualities that investors are looking for in a potential investment destination is predictability. Are you not worried that, you know, this pronouncement may have an impact on potential investors?

SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t think so. Because the—as I have said some time ago, the considerations being looked at by potential investors are, one, the peace and order situation; the lack of bureaucracy or bureaucratic red tape; and the business climate.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: But you know, predictability is one of those essential things in the business climate because if they enter into a deal, say with government, and there’s this fear that the deal may be rescinded or scrapped, you know, it can cause anxiety among investors.

SEC. PANELO: On the contrary in fact, it will forewarn them that they cannot enter into any agreement that is in violation of the Constitution or a public policy. Alam na nila iyon kaya hindi na nila papasukan iyon. Like for instance, they cannot impose, “Oh you cannot interfere with us ha,” eh hindi nila gagawin iyon kasi they’ve been forewarned.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So, you are saying if there’s nothing irregular or onerous, they have nothing to worry about?

SEC. PANELO: Oh, definitely yes.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Okay. Thank you, Sec.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WOLD: Sir, in case there are such provisions in other contracts as the Maynilad, the goal is to amend or have a renegotiation?

SEC. PANELO: That’s one; another is rescission of the contract.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WOLD: So last night also, they had a presentation on the EO or something like a roadmap. Was he okay with the creation of the Department of Water?

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Why? What did he say about the presentation?

SEC. PANELO: Well, it will synchronize all the acts from other agencies hopefully to prevent the occurrence of the waters stoppage that we had last time.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, in case that the government considers the cancelation of the agreements that were found to have onerous provisions po, will the government not incur any cancelation fee or potential penalty from cancelling the agreements po?

SEC. PANELO: No, because—for instance, it was made in violation of the law, then it’s void ab initio. It’s ultra vires because it was maybe in violation of the Constitution.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, does the Philippines—does this mean that the Philippines will also not sign any loan agreements until the review is ongoing, sir? Any new loan agreements po wala muna for the meantime that the review is ongoing?

SEC. PANELO: No, I think the President has alerted whoever will be entering into an agreement that they should be very careful in agreeing with whoever they are contracting with, with respect to existing laws and the Constitution.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, last na po. Does this mean that the signed loan agreements were not reviewed thoroughly before it was signed po?

SEC. PANELO: Which one are you referring to?

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: The loan contract, sir—

SEC. PANELO: Oh, with respect to Chico and Kaliwa it has passed through many agencies – Commission on Audit, Department of Finance.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: So, the government is standing firm that the loan agreements were thoroughly reviewed before it was signed…

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: … despite this order from the President to review it again?

SEC. PANELO: Well, we can always go back to it; but as far as the Department of Finance is concerned, it’s above board and they have explained t extensively at that.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Sec, clarification lang doon sa scope nung contracts. Kasi pag sinabing ‘all,’ it can include kasing-liit ng like food concessionaires ng department and it can go as huge as PPP or military agreements. Ano po ba iyong scope talaga—

SEC. PANELO: Lahat ng kontrata, basta anything that affects the interest of the Filipino people, titingnan natin.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: For example iyong PPP, hindi kaya—

SEC. PANELO: Ano ba iyong PPP?

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Public Private Partnership deals. Hindi kaya bumagal iyong implementation doon because of this review?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Bakit, Sec?

SEC. PANELO: Kung wala namang violation eh, bakit naman babagal.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Magiging—gaano kabilis iyong magiging review, will there be assurance na magiging mabilis iyong review?

SEC. PANELO: Oh eh merong marching order ang Presidente so even as we speak they could be already reviewing contracts entered by their departments or agencies.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Mga gaano kaya kabilis, Sec, iyong review para naman hindi magkaroon ng anxiety iyong mga stakeholders?

SEC. PANELO: You know, lawyers can review contracts fast. Babasahin lang naman nila iyong mga provisions doon eh. So, I don’t think it will take long.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Follow up lang doon sa water, Sec. You mentioned previously na we don’t need the Department of Water, so maiiba na iyon?

SEC. PANELO: Eh siguro, dahil na-discuss kahapon, mukhang okay.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Hindi ba iyon dadagdag lang sa bureaucracy?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman, meron namang… di ba meron namang council parang lahat iisa lang ang patutunguhan.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: So, bawi tayo doon, Sec. Binawi natin iyong—what could be the reason bakit—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, opinion ko lang naman iyong sinabi ko noon di ba, hindi naman opinion ng Malacañang. Sinabi ko na iyon noon di ba?

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Overruled. Sige, Sec. Salamat, Sec.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, I understand as far as review is concerned, the priority would be concession agreements involving public utilities and foreign loan contracts, right? Is that correct?

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: That’s according to the SoJ, no? So, iyon po iyong scope and then the—

SEC. PANELO: Lahat ng kontrata, basta kontrata na pinasok ng gobyerno. Kasama iyon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: SoJ said—‘cause it’s going to be, if you are going to review everything—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi with respect sa SoJ, di doon sila sa… iyong sinasabi mong concessionaire agreement. Pero with respect to the other departments, iyong kanilang mga pinasukan na ahensiya.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Aah. So, aside from the order of the President—

SEC. PANELO: Oh hindi ba sinabi ko all departments, heads… legal of all departments or agencies, offices.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, with regard to the water shortage ‘no. I’m sure napag-usapan na what went wrong? What was the analysis of the government, why did we have a water shortage?

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa, hindi ba wala pang report, hindi ba hanggang April 10 ang deadline doon.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Clarify lang, pagkatapos magbigay ng direktiba ni Pangulong Duterte na rebyuhin lahat ng kontrata, kabilang na po iyong loan agreements sa China. Will the project still push through, hindi po ba nito maha-hamper iyon pong implementation?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman siguro. I don’t think so.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Why sir, why are you confident that it will not hamper the implementation of the projects?

SEC. PANELO: Bakit naman maha-hamper. Sige nga sabihin mo nga sa akin how, in what way maha-hamper.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Iyon pong pagre-review ng deal, kasi kasama sa—

SEC. PANELO: Habang nire-review iyong deal—kung halimbawa, tinutuloy nila iyong building ng project, tapos may nakikita kang may diperensiya, oh di babaguhin mo iyong kung anong onerous provision doon, puwede pa namang baguhin iyon eh. Tuloy pa rin ang trabaho.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, one quick clarification lang.

SEC. PANELO: Sige one quick answer.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, iyong study lang doon sa Maynilad versus the Republic na case. You will just focus on the possible people who are liable doon sa pagkakalatag ng contract. The study will not include iyong mga possible legal remedies ano, considering the tapos na iyong period for appeal?

SEC. PANELO: Yes. Saka magiging template iyon ng lahat ng mga kontrata, kasi hindi na sila papasok ng ganoon. Matatakot na rin siyempre iyong iba.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sir, kasi yesterday you said na nag-file na diplomatic protest with China over the presence of Chinese vessels—

SEC. PANELO: Iyan ang sabi ng Western Command.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Yeah, but now—you issued a clarification—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, sabi ng Western Command, nag-file na, iyon ang—di ba binasa ko pa eh. Tinanong ko naman si Secretary Locsin nung maghiwalay kami kagabi. Sabi ko, “nag-file ka na ba ng diplomatic protest?” “Oo, marami na akong pinayl.” Sabi ko, “iyong sa vessel?” “Oh, on the way.” Oh iyon, ibig sabihin pinayl na, siguro pupunta na roon.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: So, ang status ngayon, sir, ay wala pang napa-file?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, on the way na nga eh. Di ano ba ang ibig sabihin ‘on the way,’ di ibig sabihin pinadala na. Ikaw naman. Siguro kung pinadala niya iyon kahapon ng hapon, siguro dumating na iyon kagabi.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Did Ambassador Zhao commented on the—

SEC. PANELO: Naging masyado lang naging literal lang. But ganoon na rin iyon.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Did Ambassador Zhao talked about the—I mean nag comment din ba siya regarding that action, filing of note verbale?

SEC. PANELO: Sabi niya, we have the mechanisms, so hayaan na natin iyong mechanism, iyong bilateral mechanism to thresh that issue.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WOLRD: Sir, for more details lang. On the rice tariffication IRR, sir, which is still pending. Did he instruct the DA legal department to have it signed this week. Kasi sila na lang iyong kulang?

SEC. PANELO: Wala ako, hindi ko narinig na tinake up iyon.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: And on CabSec Nograles’ proposed EO on the creation of an inter-agency task force on zero hunger. So what was the President’s response to the presentation?

SEC. PANELO: I think when that was being presented, wala kaming pare-pareho doon; nagmi-meeting kami doon sa kabilang kuwarto.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Talaga? So you cannot tell us what this EO specifically do?

SEC. PANELO: I’ll issue a statement on that para makita ko iyong… Kasi ang nag-preside si ES eh, noong nandoon kami sa kabila, nagmi-meeting. We stepped out for a while eh, mga 30-40 minutes. Kasi I have to report kung anong nangyari sa amin ni Chinese Ambassador.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, going back to the intruding China vessels … Pag-asa Island. ‘Di ba mayroon tayong town doon, iyong Kalayaan Town. Wala bang balak ang gobyerno—

SEC. PANELO: Ano, may ano tayo?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Bayan, established town, Kalayaan town.

SEC. PANELO: Munisipyo?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes, doon sa Pag-asa Island. Atin naman iyon, so hindi ba natin puwedeng paalisin iyong mga vessels doon regardless of how many? That’s ours.

SEC. PANELO: Kung papaalisin natin?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes.

SEC. PANELO: Nagrereklamo na nga tayo bakit kayo nandiyan, oh di effectively pinaaalis mo na iyon.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So your message to those manning the Chinese vessels?

SEC. PANELO: Iyon na nga. We already filed a note verbale on that, we’re against it.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So they must leave soon, soonest, ASAP?

SEC. PANELO: They should.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, also related: Mayroong namataan na matagal na raw naka-dock dito sa Lobo, Batangas na suspected Chinese dredging ship.

SEC. PANELO: Pinapa-verify ko. In fact, I texted an hour ago iyong Southern Command.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Oo, kasi parang ginagawa tayong tanga kasi ang sabi raw ay nawala, naligaw sa coordinates.

SEC. PANELO: When you say dredging, ano ba ang ginagawa ng dredging?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Nagdi-dredge ng lupa, gravel.

SEC. PANELO: Puwede ring nagdi-dredge ng basura kagaya ng ginagawa sa Manila Bay.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Malabo, sir, Lobo is a paradise. It’s a paradise, walang basura doon.

SEC. PANELO: Eh anong dini-dredge? Kayamanan?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Mga black sand.

SEC. PANELO: Anyway, pinapa-verify nga natin eh. They’re verifying. Iyon ang sinasabi, “We will verify, sir,” so let’s wait.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: And you do not buy what they are saying na they are just lost somewhere there?

SEC. PANELO: What?

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: You do not buy iyong sinasabi nila na naligaw doon considering—

SEC. PANELO: We will not buy. We will not sell.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Kasi iyong mga Coast Guard ayaw magsalita rin.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, ang ano yata, hindi Coast Guard ang nagreklamo. Iyong local government unit ang nagsabing unauthorized iyon, kaya nga pinapa-check natin eh. Dapat Southern Command ang mag-imbestiga.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Even iyong ano, iyong Coast Guard, mayroon tayong ano doon eh, iyong Batangas port, kung bakit hindi nila na-monitor beforehand bago pa man makarating doon sa area.

SEC. PANELO: Oo nga, I agree. Dapat iyon alam na nila na may lumalapit na hindi dapat.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So did you take this up with the President yesterday regarding your meeting with Ambassador Zhao?

SEC. PANELO: I told him what transpired.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So what did he say?

SEC. PANELO: Nakikinig lang siya.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Nakikinig.

SEC. PANELO: Nakikinig. Ganoon naman si Presidente, he listens, he…

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Wala siyang comment, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Ganoon ang Presidente: When you make a report, he listens; he absorbs.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: He did not say anything about it?

SEC. PANELO: And then, kung mayroon man siyang sasabihin sa’yo later, sasabihin niya sa’yo. Hindi ano iyon, hindi padalus-dalos magsalita iyon.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So the Chinese vessels in that particular area, hindi pa niya kinu-consider na national security concern?

SEC. PANELO: Nasa ano na nga eh, ‘di ba mayroon na tayo ngang—according to Secretary Locsin nga, may note verbale na siya. Kasi tinanong ko siya, ano bang difference ng diplomatic protest at saka note verbale? Pareho lang iyon, sabi niya.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Pero, sir, may mga protest ba tayo in the past na naaksiyunan?

SEC. PANELO: Sabi ko, tinanong ko, may protest ka? “Oh ang dami, ang dami na akong protests.”

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Yes, sir, maraming protests. Pero ilan doon sa mga protests na iyon ang na-address?

SEC. PANELO: Iyan ang hindi ko alam. We’ll have to ask Secretary Locsin.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, are there any existing deal or projects that will allow—

SEC. PANELO: Existing what?

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Existing deals or projects that will allow dredging operations by Chinese companies in the Philippines?

SEC. PANELO: Wala. None that I know of. Wala akong alam. Hindi ko alam iyon.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, yesterday, Ambassador Zhao said that the ICC complaints filed by former Filipino officials were fabricated. What does the Palace say about this?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t even know what he meant by that. You should have asked him exactly what do you mean by fabrication. Dapat tinanong ninyo siya kahapon kung ano iyong fabrication. I even missed that. Nabasa ko na lang iyon nung ninyu-news ninyo sa TV. Di ko narinig iyon. It was your job to ask him what fabrication meant. Fabrication ng ano, parang hindi ko …

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Fabrication … siguro, sir, about the claims of environmental destruction, in crime against humanity in the West Philippine Sea. As far as the Philippine government is concerned, what’s your stand on that?

SEC. PANELO: Siyempre we will not allow any destruction of our environment.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Yes, sir. But is the Philippine government convinced that the Chinese government has done environmental destruction in the West Philippine Sea? Have they committed crimes against humanity in that regard?

SEC. PANELO: First, ang tanong ko, what is the basis ba? What is the basis of the … there was destruction, iyong pag-build ng structure.

Q: [off mic]

SEC. PANELO: Precisely nga, ‘di ba that’s why nagrereklamo nga tayo eh. Kaya that’s why there is a bilateral mechanism for that.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So as far as claims of environmental destruction or crime against humanity, the Philippines is convinced that China has committed those crimes?

SEC. PANELO: What crimes? Anong crime?

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Crimes against humanity and also environmental destruction in the West Philippine Sea because of their build up in the area.

SEC. PANELO: You know, you have to have a scientific finding for that. Parang mahirap yatang maano kung—

Q: [OFF MIC]

SEC. PANELO: No, the arbitral ruling is that atin iyon; hindi sinasabing may destruction.

Q: [OFF MIC]

SEC. PANELO: Wala, wala akong nabasa na may destruction.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, during our press con yesterday, you mentioned that according to Western Mindanao Command, iyong mga nakita doon sa Pag-asa Island were China Maritime Militia. But according to Ambassador Zhao yesterday—

SEC. PANELO: Fishermen daw.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: He believes na fishermen daw. So which is which?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. Kasi wala naman akong narinig na sinabi rin ng Western Command na may mga armas. Mayroon ba silang sinabing may armas?

Q: [OFF MIC]

SEC. PANELO: Militia nga, that’s why nga tinatanong ko ano bang ibig sabihin ng militia?

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So were you able to talk about this, sir, during your meeting yesterday?

SEC. PANELO: No. Basta sinabi niya lang, as far as I know, they are fishermen. Iyon lang ang sinabi niya.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: And do you believe that that they are fishermen?

SEC. PANELO: The military command says, from their point of view, its militia men. Sino bang paniniwalaan ko, eh di siyempre iyong military.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. So what was agreed upon between you and the Ambassador if—

SEC. PANELO: We’re not supposed to be agreeing on anything. That was just a courtesy call. And we have a mechanism for that; and tomorrow—ano ba bukas? Three. Bukas sila mag-uusap ng counterpart ng ating Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs at iyong kanila. In that meeting, they will thresh out, issues will be raised and pag-uusapan nila iyon. Hindi sa amin ni Ambassador iyon. Actually, kaya lang siya nagpunta, bumisita lang. Pinagbigyan ko lang kayo na i-ambush siya. Nagagalit na nga bakit nagpa-ambush.

Q: Na galit?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman, I mean, ‘di ba sabi niya, “This was organized ambush.” Ang bait nga sa inyo eh.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Yes, as you mentioned, sir, courtesy call siya ni Ambassador Zhao. So it was Ambassador—

SEC. PANELO: No, he just wanted—sabi niya, according to him, I came just to give our appreciation that you have nothing, the government has nothing with the complaint. Iyon lang ang sinabi niya.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So the main purpose of his visit is to talk about the ICC complaint?

SEC. PANELO: No, not to talk but to express his appreciation and to say hello. Iyon lang.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. Sir, aside from ICC and the issue on Pag-asa Island, were you also able to talk about the China loan?

SEC. PANELO: No. We talked about the concern of the Chinese government on their Chinese nationals. He was telling me that we should be very strict on the compliance by Chinese employers having engaged in business, diyan sa mga casino. Kasi raw iyong mga kinukuha nilang Chinese nationals are in constant fear because according to him, iyon daw mga employers, kinuha iyong mga pasaporte nila – di hindi sila makaalis. So takot na takot dahil baka kung they’re not here through legal means, either makulong sila or madi-deport. Kaya nakikiusap si Ambassador kung puwede iyong Immigration natin ay maging very strict sa compliance ng mga Chinese businessmen. Actually, iyon ang pinakamahaba niyang narrative eh.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So sir, puwede silang i-deport? Kasi kung sinabi na ni Ambassador na maging strict.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Ang sinasabi niya nga na kailangan—mas concerned siya sa mga ano niya eh… Chinese national, na parang inaapi nung mga employer – yun ang concern niya. Kailangan maging strict tayo na hindi makapasok dito without passing through the legal requirements.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Isn’t it parang go signal na rin on the part of the Chinese government ‘na oh sige since ano—

SEC. PANELO: Eh hindi ba sinabi niya sa inyo ‘you have to apply your laws, as we apply our laws.’ Di ba sinabi niya, very clear siya kahapon sa inyo eh.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, ma-push lang yung kay Maricel na questions. So—

SEC. PANELO: Kanino?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Kay Maricel na question. So if we are going to implement our laws and they violate our laws, they are illegal—

SEC. PANELO: Definitely.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: They are okay with deporting this—

SEC. PANELO: That’s what he said.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Uhm..

SEC. PANELO: In the same way that they will apply their laws. Kung may violation din dun sa atin

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: What is going to be our action?

SEC. PANELO: Which one?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: With regard to the illegal Chinese workers.

SEC. PANELO: Then if we discover that they are illegally staying here we will prosecute them.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: And?

SEC. PANELO: Or deport them, as the case may be.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, just two points—

SEC. PANELO: And prosecute also the Chinese employers.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, you’re not worried that these are—with regard to the vessels. You’re not worried that these are militia, Chinese militia?

SEC. PANELO: Whatever the military says, I will defer to them. They are the person on the ground, they should know better.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Of course, because if they are militia they are not fishermen, technically, because they will be just there to establish presence. Were you okay with establishing presence by—

SEC. PANELO: Precisely, that’s why we are—we have already established that we do not want that.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Alright. Sir, one last; iyong question Pia. Because ang—I think the point there was that do we share the opinion of Ambassador Zhao that it is a fabrication that—when you say this is a fabrication – that China is saying there are no environmental degradation in South China Sea, they are not preventing our fisherman from fishing, so you don’t—do you share that kind of opinion?

SEC. PANELO: No. I do not know exactly what is happening there with respect to the damage to environment. There has to be an independent study of that, perhaps the United Nations can do that for us.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, this is already been done by the arbitral—

SEC. PANELO: Kasi, like for instance, how can… paano tayo makakapasok dun eh nagbabantay sila, ‘di ba? Eh mamaya ano ba ‘yun… act of hostility pa iyon or provocation pa iyon. So I think mas maganda kung independent body ang tumingin doon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, can I read you the findings of the tribunal as far as the environmental degradation is concerned because you are doubting it, but this is already a fact: “The tribunal found that China’s recent large scale land reclamations and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratlys Island has caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and that China has violated its obligation of the convention to preserve and protect. The tribunal also found that Chinese fishermen have engaged in the harvesting of endangered sea turtles, coral and giant clamps on a substantial scale.” So, so far that’s been established by the PCA. Do we share that?

SEC. PANELO: If that is the arbitral ruling, certainly that favors us.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Okay. So therefore, China’s claim, the Ambassador’s claim that it is a fabrication, you don’t believe that?

SEC. PANELO: If it refers to that, then certainly I don’t believe in that.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Okay Sir. Thank You.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir, yung after ng mga reports nung Chinese vessels sa Pag-asa Island. Papano ninyo ngayon ilalarawan yung uri ng pakikipag-usap ng China sa Pilipinas dahil sa namamataang Chinese vessels doon sa Pag-asa Island parang hindi nila kontrolado, militia man o Chinese fisherman ‘yung lulan nung Chinese vessels na ito.

SEC. PANELO: Kaya nga may mga tinatawag tayong mga mechanism para sa bilateral eh, pag-uusapan nga dun eh. They have to agree—our two countries have to agree whether tama ba yung ginagawa ninyo o mali; kung mali, baguhin ninyo.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir aside sa politely asking the Chinese government hinggil dito sa mga reports na to—

SEC. PANELO: Ang ibig sabihin ng ‘politely,’ kasi diplomatic negotiations eh, yun ang ibig sabihin noon.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Ano po ang pinaka-matinding assertions na puwedeng gawin ng gobyerno bukod po dun sa note verbal and diplomatic protest—

SEC. PANELO: Meron pa bang hindi matindi doon sasabihin mong ‘puwede ba eh, mali kayo diyan, umalis kayo diyan.’

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: So yun na po ang strongest action—

SEC. PANELO: Can you tell me what is—what other strong message can you give to them, except to leave the place.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: What if after this steps po ganoon pa rin po yung nakikita nating action?

SEC. PANELO: Then we will look for another course of action to assert our sovereignty.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, that bilateral mechanism was established shortly after the assumption to office of the President. Do you think that’s effective?

SEC. PANELO: From what I know, listening to the interview of Del Rosario, matagal na yan ever since daw may bilateral na at palagi daw silang nagpoprotesta, protesta, protesta, protesta. Yun ang sinasabi niya, sinasagot niya yung aking statement na ‘ano ba ginawa niya noon?’ Nagpoprotesta naman daw sila everytime, they are always protesting kaya lang ang ginagawa daw ng China noon – kasi sabi ko ‘bakit hindi ninyo hininto iyan from the very beginning.’ Ang ginawa raw kasi ng China noon, dahan-dahan na nag-e-establish, yung hindi halata hanggang na realize nila ang laki na, yun ang sabi niya kanina.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So that’s the reason nga sir why tayo nag file sa PCA, sa UN Arbitral Tribunal kasi hindi na kinaya ng mga protesta, protesta—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi sa hindi kinaya, nung makita nila ang laki-laki na, nagulat na lang sila ang malaki na. At kaya nangyari yun because yung nagbabantay na barko doon – Coast Guard ba o Navy natin – pinaalis niya kaya hindi na makabalik. May puwersa na sila kaya nagawa nila gusto nila.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So right now, are we going to follow that step na ginawa ng previous administration? Kasi apparently while there’s this bilateral mechanism existing right now and they’ve been consistently talking with each other parang same pa rin na treacherously, quote unquote, “parang ginagawa pa rin ng China.” So you think that’s effective?

SEC. PANELO: Meron pa ba silang pinapatayong structure, hindi ba huminto na sila?

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: They stopped, pero they are like nag-i-install ng mga armaments parang ini-strengthen nila and also the presence of these Chinese vessels even nga in Pag-asa which is within our EEZ.

SEC. PANELO: Ako ang tingin ko diyan personally, as I said before the arbitral ruling is there permanently. They cannot remove that from us. The problem is it appears that, one, we cannot enforce it simply because we do not have the might. I don’t think the President – this President – will risk the lives of our soldiers going there and declaring war. Number two, the US also appears not to be interested in enforcing it, neither is the United Nations.

So noong—next step, kung walang mangyari eh siguro—we are member of the United Nations, right? And there are cases where certain issue that happens in a particular country that affects humanity are raised in the General Assembly, tapos General Assembly makes a unified action. Eh siguro, baka iyon…

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So, we are going to raise it again if ever—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, I’m just giving you what I thought that could be done. Ganoon nila sinasabi ni Del Rosario, baka iyon ang puwede nating gawin.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So offhand, going back to my previous question. Do you think this bilateral mechanism is effective?

SEC. PANELO: I think so. You know why? Because prior to the assumption of the presidency—prior to the visit of the President sa Beijing, iyong mga fishermen natin tinataboy talaga eh… talagang tinataboy iyon eh. But noong nag-usap sila Secretary Alan saka iyong counterpart niya, napag-usapan nila iyon eh na huwag ninyo nang itaboy, pumayag sila doon eh. Kaya nga may access na iyong mga fishermen natin, hindi na sila ginugulo.

That is why hindi ba noong nagpakita ng video, ang tanong ko hindi iyong, is that authentic. Hindi iyon ang tanong ko eh, ito namang si Colmenares kung anu-anong sinasabi. Ang tanong ko, ‘yan ba recent? Kasi kung recent ‘yan, ah ibang usapan ‘yan, may violation ‘yan. Kasi kung previous ‘yan, dati nang nagawan ng paraan ‘yan.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Pero just for the record, talaga namang nakakapangisda tayo doon even before China occupied that area and the PCA also decided that it’s a fishing ground of all these fishermen.

SEC. PANELO: Correct, nakaka—tama ka, nakakapangisda. Pero noong pumasok sila, tinataboy na nila. Kaya we had to negotiate with them na huwag nilang gagawin iyon at pumayag naman sila before the visit of the President.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So, may utang na loob tayo?

SEC. PANELO: No, not necessarily may utang na loob. Ang problema kasi… ang problema, we have to face reality. The reality is they are also claiming. They are saying historic right, eh sabi naman na hindi, traditional na sa atin ‘yan – at nanalo tayo doon. Eh meanwhile wala nga—hindi natin magawa, kasi pare-parehong walang puwersa, sila ang malakas na puwersa kaya dinadaan natin sa “mag-usap tayo.” O ‘di ba sabihin mo, “Ba’t ba gusto ninyo, eh ang dami-dami ninyo na. Puwede ba ibigay ninyo sa amin ‘yan, eh amin naman ‘yan. Kailangan pa ba tayo magpatayan dito?” Iyon ang point ni Presidente.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, going back to the bringing up of the arbitration victory. Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario in an interview in ANC said that the Philippines is not without options when it comes to the implementation of the arbitration win, because we have for example the United Nations General Assembly—

SEC. PANELO: O hindi ba iyon nga ang sabi ko?

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: He said that the Philippines can bring the case to the General Assembly and seek a solution to that.

SEC. PANELO: Kasasabi ko lang nga iyon. Hindi ba iyon ‘din kako ang opinyon ni Del Rosario.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: I’m telling you sir, that’s what he said. So what is the Palace—what does the Palace think about that kind of option?

SEC. PANELO: Eh bago mo pa nga sinabi, sinabi ko na nga – iyon ang isa sa mga puwedeng gawin natin, iyong—‘Di ba, hindi ka naman nakikinig eh. Sabi ko, mayroong mga issues ng ibang bansa na dinadala sa General Assembly and they take unified action.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Are we going to take it to the UN General Assembly? That’s the question, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Eh, isa sa mga option iyon. I will let—I’m not the President, I’m just his Spokesman. It’s for the President’s decision. I’m just giving you my thoughts on it na puwedeng gawin ‘yan.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, are you seeing that as a possibility sir in the next few years before the end of the administration?

SEC. PANELO: Everything is possible. Kung you’re talking of possibilities, maraming posible. But whether magiging effective or not is another story.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Okay, sir. Sir, he also said, si Del Rosario said… I just want to ask your reaction on this – he said that sometimes it is difficult for him to tell whether this administration is speaking for the Philippines or if it’s speaking for China.

SEC. PANELO: Eh siguro dahil may edad na siya. Eh kung minsan, baka hindi niya naiintindihan. Hindi kasi sila—kung minsan kasi—like for instance, iyong mga statement ko rito nababago ang ibig sabihin. Tapos sabihin nag-back track ako – actually no, I’m clarifying mali intindi mo, ganoon eh. At saka oposisyon siya, he is with the opposition and he will be toeing the line of the opposition.

Iyon na nga ang sinasabi ko, kung hindi mo pinaalis iyong barko noon at nagagalit si Presidente PNoy as narrated by this Senator Trillanes, oh ‘di sana hindi sila naka—hindi sila nagtagumpay doon kasi mayroong nagbabantay din doon. Siyempre ‘pag mayroon kang Navy vessel doon na armado rin, kahit pa marami kayo kung ayaw mo rin ng giyera, manu-neutralize ka niyan. But by removing yourself there, o talo ka na kaagad, wala na.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, are you casting doubt on the motivation of former Secretary Del Rosario when he speaks about issues about China? Are you saying that his—mga statements on China and the—are politically-motivated?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. What I’m saying is lahat ng problema ngayon kaya nandito because of you – pinaalala ninyo eh. Iyong problema kasi—maliit na problema, lumaki nang lumaki dahil sa inyo, wala kayong ginawa. Kung may ginawa man kayo, nandiyan na. Kasi puwede mo namang—bago mangyari iyong palakihin eh, iyong maliit pa lang puwede mong pahintuin eh. Eh ngayon pinalalabas ninyo, kumbaga sabi nga ni Karen kanina, kumbaga eh dumating ang administrasyon, nandiyan na ‘yang problema tapos sinisisi ninyo. O eh iyon ang linya niya kanina eh – tama naman siya doon.

Mas mabuti pa – sa halip na criticize nang criticize – eh ‘di mag-suggest kayo ng magandang gawin, papakinggan pa kayo. Hindi iyong sisisihin ninyo kami, eh kayo ang may kasalanan.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Like his suggestion sir to bring it to the UN General Assembly.

SEC. PANELO: Eh puwede iyon, that’s one thing. We will ask Secretary Locsin what are his thoughts on this.

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Okay. Thank you, MPC. Thank you, Secretary Panelo.

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Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)

 

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