Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo uttered controversial statements about the West Philippine Sea following recent developments concerning the disputed territories.
Former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario recently filed a communication to the International Criminal Court that accused China of committing crimes against humanity.
Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, shared a video in which he interviewed fishermen about their experiences in the Scarborough Shoal.
The footage showed fishermen narrating how Chinese Coast Guard members would seize their catch and destroy their fishing boats despite the territory being under the jurisdiction of Masinloc, Zambales.
Panelo addressed the concerns that have risen on the matter at a press briefing on March 25, Tuesday.
‘They will have to show proof’ despite proof
Panelo said that “proof” must be shown to verify the claims made by the fishermen in the video against the Chinese Coast Guard in the Scarborough Shoal.
“They have to show proof that is being done now again because if it’s being done, certainly we will protest. We will not allow our countrymen to be subjected to that kind of harassment,” he said.
The spokesperson added that as far as he knows, there are no reported incidents of the Chinese driving away Filipinos in the contested area.
However, the director of the video that was shared by Colmenares attested to the veracity of the footage being shot as of late and even shared a still from it.
“I am the filmmaker behind the video. Here is a behind-the-scenes footage of our shoot dated Feb. 16, 8:15 a.m.,” Kip Oebanda wrote in the caption.
“How about instead of lying to the people about the video, go there yourself and actually talk to the fishermen? How about address their concerns instead?” Oebanda said, referring to Panelo.
“This is not meant to be a smear campaign against the government. No need to be defensive. This is just about the truth. Our fishermen are starving. Kasi ang problema puro mga pulitiko ang naririnig natin,” he continued.
‘[China] ang may control’
“May magagawa ba tayo eh sila ang may control as of now, ‘di ba? Mayroon silang puwersa doon. We can only protest like any other country na nagki-claim, like Vietnam and other … kung ano pang bansa iyon na nagki-claim,” he said.
“Sa ngayon, iyon lang ang magagawa natin eh. You want us to declare war against them?” the spokesperson added.
Panelo added that the July 2016 arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines against the nine-dash line claim of China has not been enforced, despite it having no enforcing mechanism whatsoever.
“Has any arbitral ruling by this International Court been enforced previously? Dahil kung meron, eh may pag-asa tayo; kung wala sa ngayon, wala tayong munang magagawa. So pag-usapan na lang natin sa negotiation, diplomatic muna,” he said.
The spokesperson was also asked about the controversial P3.6-billion loan agreement with China on the Chico River Irrigation Project where “patrimonial assets” will be surrendered once the debt is not paid.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio previously claimed that Beijing might take control of Reed Bank and its natural gas deposits if the Philippines fails to pay the loan.
Reed Bank is located off the west coast of Palawan. It is considered within the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea as declared in the 2016 ruling.
Carpio showed photos of the agreement in a talk and highlighted paragraph 8.1 of Article 8 that stated the Philippines “irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding.”
Panelo referred that it was a “standard” contract whenever the country would get loans from other countries.
“What I’m saying is the onerous conditions that some are saying incorporated in the contract is standard between lender and borrower to be sure that the lender will be getting what they have lent to the borrower,” he said.
The spokesperson added that the lender must not be blamed for imposing conditions that are favorable to its interest.
“Hindi ba ‘pag nag-uutang tayo, meron ba tayong say? When we [take out a] loan from the bank, it’s always the terms of the bank. Natural lang iyun na they will make sure na hindi sila malulugi sa kanilang ipinautang sa atin,” he said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III contradicted the claims and said that the Philippines will not surrender any of its assets to China, citing that “patrimonial assets” refer to those that have no “stated public purpose or public use.” — Video by Interaksyon/Uela Altar-Badayos