Press Release
August 9, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros with Pinky Webb CNN PH's

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW Senator Risa Hontiveros with Pinky Webb CNN PH's THE SOURCE

Q: Ang sabi ni Mr. Malaya, it's a figment of their imagination. Guni-guni ang sabi niya. Was there any statement that you can recall, commitment in the past that even mentioned that the Philippines was going to tow away the BRP Sierra Madre?

SRH: Straight from the horse's mouth. Mr. Malaya said not they in the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, not the Dept. of Foreign Affairs have any written or even memory of any such commitment from our end. Ang ganda po ng turn of phrase ni Mr. Malaya - a figment of China's imagination.

So that supposed promise that we made to them to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, which is within our Exclusive Economic Zone, so that is now in the ranks of their so-called nine-dash line- both and all figments of China's imagination.

Q: Why do you think China is asserting that there was a commitment previously by the Philippines to remove the BRP Sierra Madre?

SRH: It's hewing to the Goebbels school of propaganda that if you repeat a lie, though it is a lie, often enough, over and over again, it fixes itself in people's imagination also and becomes the truth. But the Philippines, we are the one standing on, ika nga, solid ground.

Malinaw sa 2016 ruling that Ayungin Shoal, it is even specifically mentioned in that ruling, ang Ayungin Shoal ay squarely nasa loob ng Exclusive Economic Zone ng Pilipinas. So talagang figment of the imagination yung pinagpupumilit ng Tsina na pangako daw natin to tow the BRP Sierra Madre away. Why would we? Why would any self-respecting country make such a commitment to remove a commissioned ship, a Philippine Navy marine station there, kung nasa loob ng ating teritoryo at nasa loob pa ng ating EEZ.

Q: China is standing by its move of blocking and using water cannons on Philippine vessels over the weekend. The latest statement from China's Foreign Ministry, they said that their actions were professional, restrained, and beyond reproach. Kung sinabi sa aking restrained, sa akin lang na description, parang nagpigil pa. Is this kind of statement telling us that if we once again do a resupply mission, which authorities are already saying we will do, a similar incident happen or it could even get worse?

SRH: That is the not so veiled threat of China. Tignan lang natin yung pagdadahilan nila. Does that powerful stream of water against a Philippine vessel look like restraint to you? Kung yan ang restraint, hindi ko na alam kung ano pa ang todo bigay no? Baka Tsunami na. Was that professional? Hardly. The DFA statement cited no less than four international laws that China's illegal actions violated at isa narin yung tinatawag na collision regulations ng international maritime organization dahil talagang sumingit sila blinock nila yung isang Philippine vessel na kung hindi umiwas, kung hindi nagpatay ng makina yung Philippine vessel, the Chinese vessel would have rammed the bow of our Philippine vessel. Beyond reproach. Nako, kasisi sisi talaga, utterly reproachable yung actions niya. Almost ramming because they blocked our vessels, subjecting our vessels to that water cannoning, and then seeking to deny the Philippine Navy marines and personnel on BRP Sierra Madre, on Ayungin Shoal, the regular supplies and rotationing. Hindi talaga katanggap-tanggap yung ginawa nila at lalong hindi katanggap-tanggap yung kanilang paliwanag kuno at pagsisinungaling pa.

Q: A note verbale was already issued and the Chinese Ambassador also summoned. This is not new to us. This has happened in the past. What should the government do next aside from this? It's not to downplay the note verbale that numbers over 30 just this year and I think since 2020 about 400 note verbales. Note verbales are important to clear the narrative that one country is trying to project. What should we do next?

SRH: Notes verbale are very important because they make of record, they put in black and white, they make official our country's protest pero ano pa ang pwedeng gawin ng ating gobyerno? This is precisely why, kung hindi man prophetic, very very timely yung unanimous resolution na inadopt namin sa Senado. Urging government through the DFA and in effect supporting them to take any and all more assertive actions politically and diplomatically kasama na isang posibilidad, resolusyon ng Philippine government sa UN General Assembly at marami pang iba we in. fact shortlisted a few of the more assertive diplomatic and political actions they could take in various forms, resolusyon man yan in various international fora, sa UN man iyan o sa iba pa at sinundan ko pa yan ng isang paalala na last year I filed a resolution calling for an investigation on many reclamation projects dozens of which ay mukhang isang Chinese state-owned company ang nagsasagawa starting with unacceptable actions within the Philippines EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. SO economically din pwedeng iparamdam ng Pilipinas yung displeasure natin at yung pagkondena natin sa mga ganitong illegal actions. It wouldn't even be the first time because previously former finance secretary Dominguez already suspended loan processes with this one particular Chinese state-owned company, the CCCC, tinigil niya yung loan processes for certain important infrastructure projects to include the Davao-Digos Rail segment, the Calamba-Matnog Longhaul Rail and Subic-Clark rail, Nakakagulat na sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang administrasyon a loan negotiations have resumed pero nasa interes natin, ng Pilipinas idecline ang ano pa mang dagdag na CCCC --

Q: Senator if this loan agreement was suspended or cancelled by the previous finance secretary and then now you're saying that itinuloy po ito with CCCC. Who allowed this?

SRH: Well, kaya kailangan din sa kasalukuyang administrasyon baka isa ito sa economic actions that they can take as in previous years para iparamdam sa Tsina na ayaw na ayaw natin ng kanilang government and state-owned actions laban sa atin, It appears that this CCCC is holding two of the current six approved reclamation projects in Manila Bay at sila rin po, itong CCCC ang kasabwat ng Chinese maritime militia sa kanilang pagsira ng coral reefs sa West Philippine Sea. at pagpoach pa sa mga endangered clams. Big disguise ang CCCC na lehitimong negosyo pero tinutulungan lang nila ang estado ng Tsina sa kanilang creeping invasion kaya pinaalala ko ulit ang aking proposed Senate Resolution 300. I filed that last year in 2022 and it directed an inquiry into reported large scale reclamation projects being undertaken on a nationwide basis here in the Philippines. Siguro naka spotlight ngayon ang CCCC dahil na rin sa recently ginawa ng Chinese Coast Guard sa ating Ph. Coast Guard sa Ayungin Shoal.

Q: You said that you filed this resolution last year, are there moves and actions now to actually look into this particular resolution?

SRH: Well, it's still pending, so my reminder to us in the senate is also a friendly reminder to the chair of the committee to which my resolution must refer, na mas timely oa ngayon na dinigin na sana itong resolution not just to show our displeasure against these hostile actions of China against us in the West Philippine Sea pero para rin isalba ang ating kalikasan. In fact, I think in a 2014 interview, one of our Filipino scientists, Dr. Giovanni Tapang, sinabi po niya na yung reclamation ng 26,000+ hectares just along the coast of Manila Bay na kasama po ito sa national reclamation plan, it would translate to a loss of the same area of seagrass, seagrass na spawning ground, and habitat of aquatic life. That is an annual loss of 4-7 billion invertebrates and 3-78 trillion fish. So grabe ang impact sa ating kalikasan there would also be immediate cause to us human beings, housing and commercial areas sa mga planned reclamation projects na ito would be put people in harm's way. Pati food security maaapektuhan dahil nga itong manila bay lalo na ay isang importanteng fishing ground at gaya ng pinag-uusapan natin kanina pa, sa reclamation na ganito masisira yung mga marine habitats tulad ng mangroves, seagrass nga at coral ecosystem so for many and more and more reasons magandang magbalik-aral ang administrasyon sa ganitong reclamation projects, ngayon nakikita natin konektado pa sa ating national security at national interest dahil sa mga kumpanya tulad ng CCCC na yan. Suspect dito sa West Philippine Sea at EEZ suspect pa sa Manila Bay.

Q: Timely sabi niyo yung senate resolution even before the incident last Saturday this is something you filed, nauna po kayo dito then eventually it was amended in a way, there are 5 options for the government to take ang naging option po is to bring this resolution to the UN General Assembly in September but your original resolution is dalhin na. Yung pinasang resolusyon kasi it remained an option for the executive department to do this. Now that this happen, nangyari po itong sa Ayungin, do you think that dapat mas naging strong yung inyong resolution in terms of not being an option but urging the DFA to bring this to the UNGA?

SRH: Actually wala akong regrets sa inadopt namin unanimously na senate resolution no. 718 which was actually a combination of my original resolution 659 and SP Migz Zubiri resolution 707 kasi kahit naman sa original resolution ko, it was an expression of the sense of the senate urging DFA. So, urging, ibig sabihin pagkatapos naming aprubahan yun, it would be in their hands now whether or not to take that course of action in that forum at kung anong timing, wala namang pagmamadali doon because a resolution by any country iun the UNGeneral Assembly could take months or years, we expressed our sense kaya masaya ako sa senate resolution 718 because it also expressed the sense of the senate it included a resolution before the UNGA as one of the possible options at ngayon nakikita natin the strong actions ,diplomatic actions that the DFA has taken again, especially after this recent aggressive hostile action at Ayungin Shoal. Confident ako na they will take as many and as appropriate actions as possible to uphold the national interest.

Q: And you had a meeting with Secretary Manalo recently. What can you share with us? Ano ho ba ang kanyang sinabi, nagmeeting po ba pa kayo pagkatapos nung sinummon na si Chinese Ambassador?

SRH: Well yes the DFA summoning of the Chinese Ambasssador happened before the meeting pero naset na po namin ang pulong na iyon even before naipasa yung unanimously na-adopt yung senate resolution. It was a very warm lunch meeting discussing of course, recent events pati itong hostile action ng China sa Ayungin Shoal. Halos hindi na namin kinailangang pag-usapan ang senate resolution kasi may meeting of minds naman kami kahit simula doon sa caucus before the senate adopted in unanimously. Pinag-usapan din namin yung aking legislative agenda kasi gusto ko malaman how I can continue to support DFA in upholding the Philippine national interest particularly in the WPS among others.

Q: Did he mention anything of the meeting with the Chinese ambassador? Is there anything you can share with us?

SRH: Well he did share that they summoned the Chinese ambassador and the Philippine side expressed our thoughts and opinions on that hostile action in very clear terms. Pero siyempre we've seen in the statement of the Chinese Ambassador which DFA has also already responded to, eh pareho pa rin and playbook ng Chinese ambassador pareho pa rin and marching orders niya mula sa kanyang foreign ministry itself has also spoken. So ano pa rin nagmamatigas pa rin ng ulo at loob ang Tsina hindi nila talaga kinikilala ang karapatan natin sa WPS at sa EEZ which makes our Senate resolution more and more timely. And I think the executive will appreciate it more now these days, this week, in the wake of the Ayungin hostile action.

Q: Among the options in that Senate resolution there were 4 or 5, one of which you mentioned is to take this to the UNGA, and one of which again you mentioned isn't really that easy, which should have been prepared months or even years. It must be calendared etc. Hindi ganun kadali magfile ng resolution before the UNGA. Among the suggestions that the Senate had put forward, what is the DFA inclined to do?

SRH: I cannot second guess them kahit sa caucus at least sabi nila wala silang opposition doon sa resolution at pagaaralan nila ang iba't ibang actions that they can take as they have been doing at inilista nga namin yung ilan sa aming combined resolution.

Q: There's a suggestion from Congressman Rodriguez if I'm not mistaken to downgrade our embassy to China and it in fact went on to say we should sent a lower rank diplomat. Do you think it is a good idea?

SRH: Well it's a worth studying I'm sure the DFA I've heard Rep. Rufus loud and clear, and it's always in the arsenal of any foreign affairs department or ministry, when a foreign country has taken hostile action against us so I'm sure the DFA is also studying that suggestion of Rep. Rufus.

Q: But that's something you feel as a Senator you need to look into because of the possible many repercussions of doing such an action.

SRH: Well any diplomatic action of course the possible repercussions and any hostile action against us we must also study what is the right scale and tone of our reaction. Basta lumabas din sa survey at pinaalala ito ni SP during the interpolation of my original resolution, top of mind ng mga Pilipino at pabor tayo, 80% of us according to the survey that China get out of the West Philippine Sea and 90% favor government taking assertive actions to achieve that scenario.

Q: I read an article that actually said quoted Rep. Castro that the PCG has gotten ten million pesos in intel funds since 2009. Hindi na daw tumaas yan ng 10 million. Will you push for an increase in their intel funds, and number 2 by how much?

SRH: I think we should support the increase of intel funds sa lahat ng totoong intelligence gathering agencies and the coast guard may well be one of those agencies in this day and age lalo na dahil katapat natin ang Tsina in the West Philippine Sea and our EEZ as we have just seen again so dramatically and in such an insulting manner in the last few days.

Siyempre yung ating mga importanteng intelligence gathering agencies ay yung mga intel units ng AFP ng DND ng PNP and of course ng National Security Council. So ito yung mga ahensya na risonableng tingnan kung ano ang mga request nila for intel funds at hindi yung mga confidential at intelligence funds ng mga ahensya, opisina at department which are not intel gathering, they don't do the analysis, they don't forward their intel analyses to government but they are intelligence using agencies for example the office of the President and Vice President or certain departments, like Education. If the coast guard has received such a poultry sum in more than one decade at ngayon front and center siya sa ating karagatan at EEZ then dapat tingnan kung ano pa ang intel request nila this year at kung risonableng suportahan sila sa Kongreso.

Q: I know the NEP was just submitted a week ago or maybe even 10 days ago and the Senate will scrutinize this, but when you are already saying that the intel funds should go to agencies or departments that are involved in intelligence operation and finding right now kung meron pong irerealign kasi from what we know so far there's about 10 billion and almost half of that 4.5 billion goes to the OP, 500 million OVP, 150 million sa DepEd, doon sa nakikita nating intel funds sa ngayon, saan kayo kukuha for example for the PCG.

SRH: Well yung pinakanagjujump out sa mata natin yung confidential funds of the Office of the President and Vice President at Education, it will really feel like part 2 of Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and my arguments last year laban sa mga unreasonable and confi intel funds ito yung mga sukat na ilipat sa totoong intelligence gathering agencies. Last year nagpasok kami ng amendya sa Senate version ng GAA for these civilian and non-intel gathering agencies to at least present kumbaga program of work sa Kongreso and quarterly to make a report of how they use these funds unfortunately tinanggal yung amendments sa Senate version sa bicam, and so this time around simula sa development budget coordinating council briefing next week hanggang sa debate on the individual office and department budgets tatanungin namin gamit ang COA reports, paano nga ba ginamit itong confi and intel funds and should they not in fact be again subject to reduction this year as I was able to do partially with the confidential and intelligence funds sa DepEd nilipat ko sa line budget ng Dep Ed, we are still in the middle of an education crisis for goodness' sake, o irealign mula sa civilian agencies na iyon papunta sa mga intelligence gathering agencies.

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