Press Release
September 28, 2022


Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): As a preliminary question, Mr. Secretary, during his inaugural SONA, the President stated that the Philippines would not give up even an inch of its territory. I assume this includes our country's rights over our Exclusive Economic Zone, am I correct?

SFA Manalo: Yes, your Honor. That is my understanding and that is what we will be implementing. SRH: Very good to hear that Mr. Secretary. If a foreign power is claiming Philippine territory, is that not a territorial dispute, especially considering the President has made it clear that his administration will surrender not a single inch of our territory?

SFA Manalo: Yes, we will challenge any claim by any foreign power of any part of our territory. SRH: I believe you can count on the support of us legislators in those rightful challenges based on international law and based on our own Constitution.

Do you think our treaty relations with the United States - and perhaps even our other allies - should be updated to reflect the new reality or realities surrounding the Mutual Defense Treaty, so-called gray-zone' tactics in our ocean to reflect those new realities? Should our treaty relations perhaps be updated and if YES, what changes should be made so we can work together with other like-minded nations to counter these "gray zone" tactics, safeguard our territorial claims, freedom of navigation, and preserve the existing international rules-based order?

SFA Manalo: Yes, your Honor. I think you were really on the correct path that we agree that our relations, of course, should always be constantly updated especially nowadays, for example, in the case of the US MDT, that in fact is being reviewed continuously at various levels to take into account the changing geopolitical conditions as well as changes in technology and approaches. For example, now, there's more interest in looking at humanitarian assistance, responses to disasters, I think that's going to be an important part and we're talking about that, as well as the new 'gray zone' tactics in the West Philippine Sea and of course the changing environment, and also our dealing with other countries, we adopt the same process. Yes, it's very important and we always have to adapt and that applies also to our treaties and our other arrangements.

SRH: Thank you, Secretary. And in fact, maybe in those newer or other areas can be found some additional ways to effectively yet still peacefully push back against that particular other nation. For my last question, for you, do you have any insight as to why a country that is claiming Philippine territory would wish to prevent the "revisiting" - so to speak - of Philippine-US treaty relations to better address current circumstances?

SFA Manalo: I can only speculate that such a country probably would be uncertain than how we would react and probably would not know in what areas that we might focus on. And I think perhaps that would cause them to probably look very carefully in any kind of adaptation we make and our arrangements, for example, with the United States.

SRH: But of course, as a sovereign nation, we would not be overly concerned about statements for example, by a former, I'll say it already.. Chinese ambassador, coming to our former Defense Secretary and telling him, "Please do not touch the MDT," "Leave it as it is," because we will have to act according to our own best interests.

SFA Manalo: Yes, your Honor. That's precisely what we are doing so we just note whatever statements they may make.

SRH: Ang sarap, ano po, sabihin sa Tsina, NOTED. Maraming salamat, Secretary. Advanced congratulations. Mabuhay po! I really look forward to your next six years at the Department.


SRH: Binalikan ko po yung statement ni Foreign Secretary Enrique A. Manalo on the 6th anniversary of the award on the South China Sea arbitration, 12th July 2022, where I think the three concrete points made were that, meaning the award, that: "it authoritatively ruled that the claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 9-dash line had no basis in law and is without legal effect. It upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its Exclusive Economic Zone and it affirmed that certain actions within the Philippines' EEZ violated the Philippines' sovereign rights and were, thus, unlawful; that large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands caused severe environmental harm in violation of international conventions; that the large-scale harvesting of endangered marine species damage the marine ecosystem and actions taken since the commencement of the arbitration had aggravated the disputes."

And I have faith, Mr. Chair, that the pursuit, the sustaining pursuit of especially multilateral actions with our claimant nations and other naval powers will enable us to achieve effective actions on these points.

SRH: May cinonfirm po tayong isang taga-DFA in the previous hearing, if I recall, his name was Mr. Roque. At naitatanong ko po sa kanila noon ang exclusive Economic Zone ba ng Pilipinas ay exclusive sa atin o hindi.

And I remember bahagi po ng sagot niya ay exclusive at the same time pwedeng humingi ng permiso ang ibang mga bansa na makapakinabang din doon. Hingin ang permiso sa Pilipinas in that case dahil recognized yun na Exclusive Economic Zone ng Pilipinas.

And lastly, minsan nga yung mas mahinang bansa kapag katapat ng isang mas malakas na bansa, minsan nga statement nalang ang natitira sa atin diba, and yet we are able to make such statements on the basis of right. Dahil yung mas malakas na bansa on the basis of might. Kaya nandun sila and batay nga dun sa Hague Ruling may mga ginagawa sila na higit sa kanilang karapatan, just because they can, just because they have the might.

Kaya para sakin, positibo pa rin na yung ating mga government officials makapag-statement sa mga mahahalagang petsa to assert yung aspiration ng ating bansa as they have been affirmed by the international community sa mga significant events tulad ng Hague Ruling na iyan. ###

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