Press Release
August 3, 2023

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri

The Source with Pinky Webb
August 3, 2023

Q: First off, we have a Senate President Migs Zubiri, SP thank you for your time. Welcome back to The Source.

SP MIGS: Thank you very much Pinky. Thank you very much to everyone watching. Good day po.

Q: Sir tell us first about that dinner you had with the President last night.

SP MIGZ: Actually very cordial, casual, get together and nothing, nothing serious was being discussed. The President's been wanting to have this dinner for quite a while. It's been a year since we started office and we've always said na, if we could host a dinner with all the senators to get to get together with all of them. So few topics were discussed, but nothing very serious, although he had come from the meeting with then former President Duterte in Malacañang, so of course, he was just talking about how the President was very well, quite happy the former president or rather and that's about it in basically. What he mentioned to us was during the duration of President Duterte's meeting with Xi Jinping, the topic of the West Philippine Sea never was brought up. Apparently, it was never, according to the President, casually saying that it was never brought up. It was actually President Duterte who mentioned according to the President. It was actually President Duterte to mention to Xi Jinping that on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, look kindly look kindly to the Philippines. That's what according to the president said, so it was actually the president former president who shared his thoughts that China should look kindly to their neighbor in the south of Philippines. That's this as far as the topic had gone and we discussed all the topics around the country.

Q: But that's it in terms of the conversation between President Xi Jinping and former president Rodrigo Duterte, yun lang po yung na-share?

SP MIGZ: Yes, that's the only thing that was shared. Maybe there were other topics that were discussed it could have been an executive session, so I'm not at liberty to discuss it. The President did not discuss much about it as well. So, it was alright we discuss more about flooding and agriculture as a matter of fact,

Q: Yeah I know, I'm sure you're going to want to talk about that, especially agriculture, especially rice importation. But when President Rodrigo Duterte the former president says look kindly, sinabi ho ba ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos kung ano ang sinagot ni President Xi Jinping?

SP MIGZ: Wala, he just mentioned that and it was the end of the topic actually, and I don't know any of the information, that's the honest to goodness truth Pinky.

Q: What are your thoughts on the suggestion of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to appoint former President Rodrigo Duterte as special envoy to China? Do you think that is a step in the right direction should this be done?

SP MIGZ: Why not? Anyone who can help diplomacy in this part of the world, in this economic zone of ours, exclusive economic zone would be a big help. It could be president former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. It could also be Alan, why not Senator Alan as well to help in the back channeling since he's quite close to some of the officials there being the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs? And we, of course, the president knows our stand on Senate Resolution Number 718 we passed the other day, but we didn't really touch much of it because it was very cordial and very light dinner. The President didn't ask about the resolution. I think he knows that we had a meeting earlier during the week with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. So whatever the Secretary of Foreign Affairs divulge to us have the imprimatur of the President. I'm sure.

Q: Sorry, sir. To clarify, you said the President did not ask about the Senate Resolution 718. Did not ho ba?

SP MIGZ: He's familiar with it. He knows the stand the Senate. He knows the stand of the Senate very well. And during the conversation we just mentioned basically that we had this stand with the Senate. And that's what we touched very quickly on the issue of former President Duterte and then we change topics after that into agriculture and flooding that's going on all over Luzon, particularly Northern Luzon, his province Ilocos Sur and, of course, what's happening in Bulacan and Pampanga. So that's how, that's the gist of the meeting Pinky, we didn't want to impose or discuss anything serious at the time cause this was really for a casual and cordial dinner. But what is important Pinky no, I think we should focus on the resolution. I think it is important to take note that the Senate went together, united together.

Q: I actually want to talk about that.

SP MIGZ: Yes, there was a bipartisan vote on the issue. And we all voted in favor of the resolution. Napakasimple lang ng resolution na ito, we're condemning China for the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and this persistent incursion into our exclusive economic zone and violations of the decision of the arbitral court which basically grant us the exclusive economic zones in these areas. My worry kasi Pinky is, they're pushing in, and we should push back. When I say they are pushing in, they're already making their playground the areas of between Pag-Asa and Palawan. Remember that Pag-Asa (inaudible) is already there, you have to understand. But Pag-asa island is already a municipality of, it's a municipality of Palawan and that's about, it's about maybe 140 nautical miles from Palawan. And in between that that's Ayungin Shoal and other shoals that are very close to the Philippines. Where it has always been time and time before generations before us. The natural fishing ground of the fisherfolk in these areas, and what really shocked us and that's why we took action on this Pinky was three weeks ago in Sabina Shoal, which is about 80 nautical miles immediately, 80 nautical miles from Northern Palawan, there was a swarm of about 200 ships. The 100 ships were militia and part were Navy and Coast Guard boats, we have the photos to prove it. We've had the information and the documentation to prove it. Why there were lingering there for several weeks? Now ang punto ko dito, there are only 40 nautical miles from Malampaya. Malampaya, Pinky that's how close they were to us and, again 80 nautical miles from the mainland of Northern Palawan. So on a clear day, possibly in northern Palawan, and if you had a telescope or a binocular, you can see the ships, that's how close they are. Ito yung Palawan Pinky, di ba ito ang Pilipinas, nandito po sila. Napakalapit. Ngayon ang punto namin dyan ay ganito, ang pinakamalapit na mainland coast ng China which is the Hainan province, which is the island right below the mainland of China. It is almost 600 nautical miles, 600 nautical miles Pinky from their territory. So I noticed no rhyme nor logic, no rhyme or reason or logic that will dictate that this area is theirs. It's ours. That's why the nine dash line has to be contested. The nine dash line is ridiculous as far as I'm concerned and we have to push back because if you don't push back they will be coming closer to the Malampaya gas plant and later on you find them already the shores of Palawan and so we have to do a push back and that's what we're doing now and it's okay to be the bad cop. In government we have to remind the government that hey we can't let this happen, I know that there's diplomatic balancing act that has to be done. But we have to push back.

Q: Who is the sabi mo nga kailangan may bad cop dito, who is the yung sinasabi niyong bad cop? Yung senado? Because of this resolution?

SP MIGZ: Yeah, the Senate. The Senate has to stand united now. We don't look at districts Pinky. If you if you know the difference between us and our dear colleagues in Congress, we have districts in Congress. I used to be a congressman for three years, I mean for 3 terms 9 year, the focus basically is internal. Of course, they can come up with a stand because it's still they still act as national leaders, but in the Senate we're all elected nationally, all elected at large and we have to make a stand on the issues that concern national sovereignty. You know, the treaties are discussed in the Senate. It's approved in the Senate. So therefore, we discuss a lot of foreign or foreign relations issues. Of course, ultimately, the decision of the state or the decision of the President is the ultimate foreign policy. We totally agree with that. There's no debate that if it's coming from the President. The President will dictate foreign policy for the country. However, the Senate can give a sense of the Senate it can relay to the President on how we feel, on options that we can give on how to handle this particular issue of the West Philippine Sea. We did that, Pinky. We gave out five recommendations and it's in my last, it's in our last (whereas clause?) together with Senator Risa Hontiveros, we both authored this. And unanimously supported by all members, and the last (whereas clause) we heed number one, if first of all, we have to continue dialogue with the Chinese government. No we cannot abandon, you cannot unilaterally and multilaterally discuss this without discussing the Chinese government. We continue to file diplomatic protest. We continue to reach out to them. We continue to let them know that hey, you're going, we have to close to the economic zone. We got to push you back. I mean, we have to do that. But if they don't listen and after 200, right now there are about 90 to 100 diplomatic protests Pinky. After 200 diplomatic protests and they still don't listen. We have options that we shared with the foreign affairs department and Secretary Manalo was there when we discussed it, Pinky you want me to.

Q: I actually have it and I'll read it quickly because I need to go on a break. The first one of course is bring international tension to China's harassment and continued violation of the ruling in the Permanent Court of Arbitration as you mentioned. Number two, use international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the arbitral ruling. Number three engage with like-minded countries, the call on China to respect the ruling and then the fourth one is where I want to focus on Sir, because initially, it was your sentiment and I do remember you agreed that if you were wanted to urge the DFA to forward a resolution before the UN General Assembly in September and you stopped short of doing this with number five, file resolution before the UNGA calling for the cessation of all harassment and violation of the Philippine rights in the West Philippine Sea. Sir, the question is, bakit ho hindi ito ginawa ngayon dito sa resolution na ito, to urge the DFA to forward this to bring this up to follow resolution before the UNGA. Why did you decide to wait?

SP MIGZ: Well, diplomacy is the, you know naman Pinky diplomacy is the realm of several possibilities, you know it's a compromise and basically the first solution was filed by Senator Risa to take it right away to the UNGA. Some of my colleagues felt that, baka wala tayong boto dun? Kasi may impluwensya rin yung kapitbahay natin sa China, they have also influence there. And there are diplomats who were worried, what if we don't get the majority vote? If we don't get the majority vote will that water down our PCA in the arbitral ruling? Di ba so we have to calculate and calibrate our action. So the second part, that's why I filed another resolution that I offered this time, which basically gave out these options which the Secretary of Foreign Affairs agreed that it should not be limited only to finding a solution in a UN General Assembly. Di ba dinagdag lang yung, ibig sabihin hindi natin winaterdown ito, dinagdagan natin yung mga options, pinalakas natin yung posisyon ng gobyerno, which I totally agree that we could do. Anyway it's on the table so sabi nga ng mga ni SFA, sabi ni Secretary Manalo that nandyan naman as number four itong resolution sa UNGA, so nasa table ko yan, nasa lamesa ko yan that anytime that they can do so. Once that all the other remedy has been, of course, used and nothing still is happening.

Q: SP, we just need to take a break. We'll be right back.

Q: Before I leave this topic very quickly sir, yung pong mga filing a resolution before the UNGA, tingnan muna natin tong options na to that you have identified. Is there a timeline? I mean, if the harassment continues if the incursions continue, does the senate president think after six months, we will pursue this call for the DFA to file a resolution before the UN GA which happens every year, sir?

SP MIGZ: I don't want to come up with the hypothetical scenarios because that's what it is. It's hypothetical scenarios. We don't know what's going to happen. I mean, our neighbors in the north can soften up and decide to just push back themselves. If they don't do that, and there's an there's an increase in tensions between our Coast Guard our fisherfolk with the militia of the Chinese navy and together with the Coast Guard of China, I think, definitely will make a recommendation to take it up to the UNGA. As a matter of fact, I had a meeting last Tuesday night with the ambassador to the United States to the Philippines, United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson and she mentioned that should we will have their support and all their ally support including members of the European Union. If that happens as a matter of fact, Pinky there's, it's a snowball effect because apparently I found out in the news that India also made the same declaration that they are not supporting the nine dash line claim of China. And you know, India is part of BRICS, it's a part of their.. they have a group in Brazil, India, China, and all these other countries that came together for economic reasons, under the Russian and Russian and China rule of this organization, are leading the organization and they also said, you know, we're not in favor of the nine dash line so who knows we may be able to get a majority vote at this point in time. We have to calibrate well, study it well, and we're giving the US Secretary of Foreign Affairs options to do other things. And that's what's important, I think, ang napakahalaga nito ay ipakita natin ang galit natin sa kanila. We have to show them how angry we are to what they are doing in our territory. Let me again repeat Pinky, if this was 80 nautical miles from the shores of Russia, or 80 nautical miles from the shore of the United States, or even 80 nautical miles from England, feeling ko lahat yan papalag no, they're going to really send their Navy and the ships and the push back and apprehend these militia ships. So we have to do the same at the same time when I'm saying this, budget seasons coming up. We got to help our Navy, we got to help our Coast Guard, we got to get new bigger ships. We've got to help our BFAR, Bureau of Fisheries, give our fisherfolk also larger fishing vessels which can swarm the area and finally if we have our permanent fishing fleet there claiming what is truly and rightfully theirs na Filipino fishing communities.

Q: Senate President, I have a minute left. Could you just tell us what was discussed with the President in terms of flooding, there are over 100 areas now under a state of calamity, what could be the immediate solution or short term plan?

SP MIGZ: Well, he's very concerned. He was very concerned last night and during the course of the dinner, siyempre tinitignan nya yung cellphone niya, nagtitingin po siya ng mga updates kung ano ang nangyayari. And he was, every time he looked at his phone and he was like sighing ano, sigh of sadness and we have to send things here to this province, or to send more relief goods to this other province. I think, he instructed the DPWH to come up with a master plan, we've been itong baha na ito Pinky has been hounding us since I was born. Since I was born in 1969. I think this problem is becoming, and is getting worse, because the length of the time that the water stays logged in waterlogged areas is longer than it was before. Dati after one or two days mawawala na yung baha, ngayong linggo nandun pa yung baha, parang naging Venice ito, parang the City of Venice in Italy so we have to have a long term plan. As I mentioned, how come Amsterdam, Copenhagen they can do this? They're below sea level, they're right by the sea. Kaya po nilang super dike, mga dike na nilalagay para hindi na po umaakyat ang tubig dito. There's several factors that could be, maybe it's because maybe the closing of the sea areas from the river systems have to be dredged, have to be cleared up, esteros to be cleaned, they have to come up with a masterplan. The President agrees that the DPWH should have to come up with a masterplan. Eh kung gagastos tayo ng ilang bilyon gawin na po natin na..what is most important.

Q: Kailangan na po gumastos ngayon, para hindi pa lumala ang sitwasyon. Senate President Migz Zubiri sir thank you so much for your time.

SP MIGZ: Thank you very much Pinky, mabuhay po tayong lahat. God bless the Philippines.

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