Press Release
November 28, 2012

Transcript of Sen. Santiago's 28 November 2012 interview

I most respectfully recommend that there should be an immediate meeting between the secretary of Foreign Affairs, who is our spokesperson on international relations, and the secretary of Justice with respect to the entry into our country of Chinese nationals bearing the so-called new Chinese e-passports that allegedly show that certain parts of the West Philippine Sea fall under the sovereignty of China, which have always claimed the West Philippine Sea as the South Chinese Sea. That is an upfront to Philippine sovereignty. We cannot stop China from printing any type of passport bearing any kind of legend or photograph it wishes, but we have sovereign power to prevent any person who seeks entry into Philippine territory by any entry point-- through sea, land, air, seaport, airport, or by any means of transportation.

We have the power, as long as it is Philippine territory, to reject any national wishing to enter our country with a passport that bears a map that clearly opposes the Philippine claim to the West Philippine Sea. We have sovereignty on certain grounds upheld by international law--historical, document, geographical, etc.--with respect to our claim there. We cannot allow these Chinese nationals to cross borders and enter Philippine territory where there is no dispute, presenting a passport or a document that purports to show that part of our maritime territory is part of the maritime territory of the State of origin. That is a direct assault on our sovereignty. That would be considered an act of aggression. That's aggressive. I don't care what they print on their own passport because we cannot infringe on their sovereignty, but I do care, as a Filipino citizen, the moment they come into our country.

If they bear that kind of passport, we will be acting well within our rights to deny them admission into our territory. Turn them back immediately. They should be self-deported upon arrival at the airport. They should take the next flight out of the country if they can afford to do so. But we should not allow them to go out of the airport and roam around Philippine territory carrying that kind of offensive document. You know under the doctrine of sovereignty, every State has in general terms, control over its own territory subject only to the concept or doctrine of human rights. But human rights are not involved here. So there is absolutely no basis in international law to grant basis or even the function of entering our territory to any national who carries an official document, which opposes by means of drawings or maps, our own sovereignty as we claim it in tribunals and discussion centers of the world, such as the United Nations.

Does stamping China's new passports amount to acceptance of their claim?

It cannot be interpreted in that manner. There are those who do that, like all the countries to the dispute with China, such as Vietnam or Malaysia. If they wish to accept those individuals, they are not bound by the admission of those Chinese nationals into an interpretation that will affect them when they argue their case before any international body or agency in an authoritative manner. If other countries will accept those Chinese nationals bearing those offensive passports that certainly will not bind them. It will not constitute proof that it has already accepted the opposing claim of sovereignty of China so it is not a binding act in the part of the state, but it is better if we articulate by means of our rejection at our borders of their nationals that we are offended by their action. We consider it provocative. We consider it an act of aggression. And we shall resist it as far as possible under international law. That is why I am recommending, most respectfully, that the secretary of foreign affairs and the secretary of justice should coordinate with each other so that the secretary of justice, who has supervision over the Bureau of Immigration, will instruct the immigration officials at the airport to turn away those Chinese nationals. For us, we already filed a diplomatic note of protest for us to inform the Chinese ambassadors here that we are going to start that policy effective on a certain date.

Could there be a compromise like what Vietnam did?

Why go through that rigmarole? We don't want to say "Please, can you stop doing that?" when you want to say "Stop doing that. You are in my territory. This is terra firma Philippines."

Will this heighten tensions between the two countries?

Well, China is the original source of the tension by raising all these territorial claims. For whatever reason, we have to analyze from the perspective of international relations. You know, there are people who live in windowless rooms trying to analyze how to aggravate other people without actually going to war, or how to destroy their morale, things like these. If we are going to fall into place under the plan of China, we might not be doing ourselves a favor. We might as well, on the outset, tell them what we really think.

I'm really by nature a hawk, so if I draw a line and you cross it, you'll get it, as far as I'm concerned.

Will the change in leadership in China also change this policy?

Hindi natin maintindihan ang isipan nila, kung mas pacific sila sa approach nila o mas belligerent sila, kasi segun iyan hindi sa Pilipinas o sa Vietnam, South Korea, or Taiwan--mga maliliit na bansa. Segun iyan sa paningin nila sa relasyon nila sa America. That is the important factor there. The United States owes China some USD 13 trillion, so China is a creditor nation of the United States. But on the other hand, the United States, so far, is the superior military power in this part of the world, and now has this policy of the pivot to Asia, all reflecting the needs and wants of the Americans, not necessarily the Filipinos. We have no special relations with America, that is why I am always kicking and screaming because America tends to take us for granted. Imagine President Obama, newly reelected, takes a visiting tour to certain southeast Asian countries, and he overlooks the Philippines, with which his country has a mutual defense treaty. He goes to countries that don't even have this kind of a treaty, much less a visiting forces agreement. That is why I think we should, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, kick and scream about our rights because these two countries simply tend to overwhelm us and step over us, because we are so tiny. We have to prove by our brains we are bigger than any geographically or economically powerful state Is not accepting their passports part of that "kicking and screaming" tactic?

Kung sa Tagalog pa, eh di mainis na lang sila.

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