DFA official/s interviewed: SFA
|Program: ANC “Headstart”|
Name of interviewers: Ms. Karen Davila
Date: 08 February 2021, 8:00 AM
Link to interview clip: https://www.facebook.com/ANCalerts/videos/1103648870135577/
Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (SFA): Good morning.
Karen Davila (KD): Alright. I’m glad you made it, sir. I’ll start with….I know, Secretary, you filed a diplomatic protest against a new China law allowing its Coast Guard to fire foreign vessels in the West Philippine Sea. Just to update on that, have they responded to the protest and are you expecting to dialogue with Chinese officials regarding this?
SFA: I believe that they responded to you, Karen. Ambassador Wang…
KD: No... Yeah, but not to me; to the media.
SFA: To the media…
KD: Okay. Go ahead sir.
SFA: Well, yes as I said. Initially I said you make a law, a domestic law, that’s not our business. That’s nobody’s business. However, on reflection, you realize that this law will be applied to areas that they claim is theirs or rather can be applied to areas that they claim is theirs but...and they will fire if there is resistance. I said, well that to me is a threat of war. I’ve said it.
KD: Now, with the diplomatic protest, are you expecting to dialogue with after that? Or have they responded to the DFA based on the protest? A formal response.
SFA: Aside from the Ambassador replied to the media saying “no, there is no threat”, and then I was carefully pointed out that there is no exact delineation of jurisdiction. Yes, sure there is no exact delineation of jurisdiction in the law according to them, but what if there is? There could be. So, by my protest stands. Then, is there a need for a dialogue? No, I think exchange of notes is good enough. Second, so far, there is no incident. If there is an incident, I can assure you it will be more than just a protest.
KD: The Chinese Ambassador did say to the media that there is no change in where they stand and with their foreign policy with regards to the South China Sea issue, but is there a change when it comes to the Philippines’ foreign policy issue? Are we taking a much tougher stand on China’s behaviour in the West Philippine Sea now?
SFA: No, it is exactly the same as what I took over. Although it might seem as if mine was a radical departure of the 60 diplomatic protests that were filed —45 were by me and the other one is by my predecessor, Alan Cayetano. He laid down the policy and we haven’t changed at all. Never relent because as in the case of the Coast Guard Law, if we do not assume the worst and file a diplomatic protest on that basis, then it is in effect submission, and I will never allow that.
KD: Article 22 of this China Law says, to summarize it, it says use all necessary measures including weapons to stop the infringement and eliminate danger. Of course, the Chinese Ambassador says, “no Filipino fishermen or vessels have been fired at. Don’t over interpret that particular law”, he states. But what action will the Philippines take if this happens to a Filipino vessel, for example?
SFA: Be careful with that. But, I’ll tell you one thing. It is not what he says. Second, I was in another meeting but unfortunately for repatriates, top secret. Then they were actually reading to me the Coast Guard Law and finding out what’s not so good for it, what's bad about it, what’s good, what’s harmless about it. I said, the next one, whoever opens his mouth and reads from the Chinese law is effectively submitting to that law. “No, I don’t want you to know what’s in that law”. I’m just telling you that it threatens to open fire on anyone that they claim has entered their area, period.
KD: Other than the Coast Guard Law….
SFA: Once we start reading, trying to understand them, in that sense of taking in that text, trying to see if we can live with it, I think we have lost. I think we have [GARBLED]. I think we have surrendered. No.
KD: But actually, it is not trying to understand them as much as discovering if there is doublespeak on their behalf.
SFA: That is their problem. Because I always take a foreign country’s ward at face value. I met...for example, Trump already lost the election but I continued to have high level meetings with Pompeo, with Miller, with Stephen, with O’Brien. They were a little apologetic and then I said no, why are you apologetic? You are Americans. Americans are very strict about one thing. Trump is President. Therefore, I take it at face value and I act accordingly. I’m not [GARBLED] with interpretations.
KD: Secretary, other than the Coast Guard Law, I know that you did have a discussion with U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and he released a statement after that affirming U.S commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty. That particular conversation, did he get into details and does this mean that if China does take action on that particular law, that the U.S has given you a clear commitment that it will take action?
SFA: Well because I am a grateful man and a man of honor, I began my conversation with Blinken by expressing my utmost admiration for the previous administration. For Mike Pompeo in particular, and for his first time, clear explanation that any attack on a Philippine vessel. Because everybody knows that any attack on the Metropolitan Territory triggers the Mutual Defense Treaty. Nobody really can figure out what Metropolitan Territory means. Maybe it was a term used in the 1950s. Be that as it may, he made it clear if you hit a Philippine vessel...on the other hand, I tried to explain also. If they hit an American vessel, then the Mutual Defense Treaty on our part also is triggered. Get it? Because the Mutual Defense Treaty means exactly that mutual. So now it is very clear. Be careful. Somebody, I remember told me about a long time ago under Cory: “Oh the Americans will not [GARBLED] really mean the Mutual Defense Treaty. I mean, who are we compared to… and I brought this up to the United States. The Americans said we don’t actually care who you are, we have a treaty with you, Mutual Defense Treaty and we will observe that. Like we had —this was during the Cold war — a Mutual Defense Treaty with Germany and when Berlin was in one end of the free world and the Philippines is in the other, and in between is Communism, they said, “we will fight for you fast as we will and readily fight for Germany”.
KD: Secretary, just to be specific, what exactly did Secretary Blinken tell you in terms of the clear commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty?
SFA: He affirmed that it was important for me to preface it on what Pompeo said because that was the most precise formulation I’ve ever heard or anyone’s ever heard of the American defense commitment and he articulated it. So, that’s it.
KD: With this clear commitment to support the Philippines…
SFA: ...in the event of that.
KD: Yes, in the event of that, how does this affect the Visiting Forces Agreement. I know that you did suspend the suspension of it. It’s renewable every six months but given this new development, does this mean we are seeing more prominence, for example with the Visiting Forces Agreement?
SFA: I’ve certainly said the suspension intended that we should continue working and I’m narrowing down the issues and soon we will meet, I believe in the last week of February and iron out whatever differences we have and come to an agreement. What that agreement is, of course, I do not wish to anticipate because then that would weaken my decision.
KD: Now, Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio suggests that the Philippines send a strong message to China after this particular threat. And he says it’s important to raise it with the U.N. Tribunal.
SFA: I have high respect for Tony Carpio. His partner, Nonong Cruz, is an old friend of mine, and I respect his legal mind. No. Everybody wants to enter a show. Everybody wants to show off with the United Nations. Well, I’m not gonna go back there because the Coast Guard Law has some claims as to the extent of their territory. That will re-open the Arbitral award and I’m not gonna give them a chance to do that. Because I’ll tell you one thing about the Chinese: Chinese diplomacy has been very effective in most of the members of the United Nations and I’m not gonna throw our victory into that and let them decide. Well, I don’t want to say anything but you already won but you want to re-litigate? There must be something really wrong with you.
KD: Is it time for the Philippines to proactively seek... [OVERLAP]
SFA: It’s normally desperate people who want to run for office and want to show up at the United Nations and defend us. Please. There’s nothing to defend. We already won. Tama na. What you can do, you can do COVID work. You know what I mean? Those desperate members of the opposition, please go to the frontlines. You know? Swab people. That’s how you show but don’t you dare. This was actually the achievement of Noynoy Aquino. Tony Carpio was there, Francis Jardaleza, Albert del Rosario. God. Don’t throw it away because you’re desperate for publicity. Give it a rest. Go ahead
KD: Are you saying that the Senior Associate Justice is desperate for publicity?
SFA: I do not like to make it personal because I really love that guy. Okay? I will not relitigate it. That in the case of the Coast Guard Law, even Harry Roque, said the same thing. He said no and I said no. Well, a little bit angrily. I love the man and apparently he loves me back. But no, we’re not doing it because my brain tells me it’s wrong.
KD: Okay. Now, Secretary, is it time to also proactively reach out to our ASEAN neighbors, also to other countries also with the same claim?
SFA: No. The National Defense will be exclusively the national endeavors. As we assert a very strong foreign policy, which we’ve been doing since Alan Cayetano, it’s for them to follow us, there was some silly woman who said, “we should follow Vietnam”. Do you know Vietnam follows our approach? And in our dealings on the exploitation of natural resources, they look into us as the model of courage and intelligence.
KD: I’m gonna get to the exploitation of natural resources later. I’m curious. Just to finish this, Associate Justice Carpio also said another way to send a strong message is for the Philippines to already conduct naval drills with the United States. The last time, the Philippines did not participate. Do you believe we should, Secretary?
SFA: Well, that’s wrong. In fact, we did not participate in a small one and then joined the giant ones. The RIMPAC near Hawaii and of course, it’s very hard to participate when you have very very few ships of a capital class but we are gonna have a separate frigate. We’re gonna have more. I wish I could tell you more but then, [GARBLED], if you know the secret. I can tell you that we are re-arming, that I want to say, the good part about the Mutual Defense Treaty is that it kept us safe in the Cold War. It also kept China safe because even the Chinese, it meant that they might have done something reckless in the past under Mao Tse -tung. So, it kept everyone in good behavior. Well, we’re gonna keep it that way but one thing we did not do is engage in a modified arms race considering where we are. But now, for the first time, under this President, we are arming. I’m arming seriously. And the reason for that is something that I brought up when Noynoy (when we) had this problem in the South China Sea. People thought that I was joking and I believe we were together in ABS-CBN when I gave that TEDitorial. Then I said, “I tell you what, I’m not qualified, I’m not a soldier, I'm not a Marine but I can cook a good omelette. I’m gonna be the ship’s cook, you, be in the bridge and we go to the South China Sea”. And you know what, what if they fire on us and sink? That triggers the Mutual Defense Treaty. So, yes. Unfortunately, Noynoy didn’t like the idea of either me cooking or he going into the South China Sea to defy the Chinese but possibly the [GARBLED].
KD: Just on the detail, when you say “we our arming”, do you mean specifically we are upgrading the Philippine Coast Guard to prepare for this eventuality?
SFA: The Coast Guard is just one aspect. Those are white-hull ships. Our grey ships are also growing and they are not second hand. I wish I could tell you more, but as I said, you know, state secrets. I can assure you it’s a serious one but I must tell you one thing and sometimes I get a little frustrated . Our economic managers, our President, they all believe in this, in the re-armament, oh no what “re-armament”, in the “armament” because we never had any, but we always think of other priorities- of the economy, of the poor, of education, of this and that, which frustrating because when you put money in one area, you obviously take it from the others but so with great deal of responsibility and consciousness for the immediate human welfare of the Filipino people, we are squeezing out as much as we can to make us, in the words of Lorenzana’s, I really love the way he said it, “Teddy Boy, we may not win the war if the war breaks out but by God we can give them a bloody nose”. Then everything that passes in Lorenzana’s watch, and Jun Esperon, and myself, that nose is gonna get bloodier, bloodier, and bloodier.
KD: Okay, but is upgrading the military for example the only way or what about engaging our neighbours or our allies?
SFA: Well, if I’m gonna engage them I would like to engage them with something in my hand. Remember the movie “The Godfather 2” where Michael Corleone was supposed to go to the toilet and come out because they planted a gun there and defeated the enemy of his family and Sonny Corleone said make sure that pistol is in that toilet because I don’t want my brother Michael coming out of toilet with his dick in his hands. So, when I go and talk to my colleagues and so on in the Pacific, I’d like to bring something more than, you know, something organic to myself.
KD: Okay. Now, two things–you talked about joint exploration, where are we on that Secretary and does the latest statement coming from China affect the Philippines’ relationship and the possibility of doing a joint exploration with them?
SFA: No, not at all. It doesn’t affect it at all because the whole purpose of the joint exploration under the memorandum of understanding on oil and gas is that we are able to move forward. They have resources, we don’t have. We have resources, they obviously don’t have because it’s in our EEZ. We also have technical expertise, we have data, and so we can move forward and what is still being discussed is to what extent we can move forward without either side saying effectively you’ve given up your position or even a fraction of it. So, now I have just lately formulated a beautiful no-prejudice clause where it says not only that it is in terms of a written agreement but any act, any transaction, any event where one seems to be replying on the other, none of that can ever be raised by either party–either to advance its claim or to defeat the other’s claim. So, with that kind of precision which I am very well capable, we’re moving forward. You cannot say more than that because remember this is oil and gas, and oil and gas have warred everybody.
KD: So, you are saying added that particular phrase, you added that condition Secretary on the agreement?
SFA: When I say no one should speculate on oil and gas, I am watching the stock exchange. If I see anyone attempt to use it, any portion of information, I will find graft charges against.
KD: But give me a possible timetable, I’m curious Secretary when are we gonna see this into fruition?
SFA: If there was a timetable, Karen, I wouldn't tell you because if there was a timetable then, I’m sure half of your staff will be running to the stock exchange.
SFA: I don’t even know if anybody here in my room would be around after one minute, one second after I say the time I expect it to happen.
KD: Okay. Another issue when it comes to the West Philippine Sea is Associate Justice Carpio also said that unless the code of conduct is finished, this code is rendered useless with China’s new threat. So, first give us an overview, where are we when it comes to this code of conduct. I’m sure President Duterte would want to leave office with the Code of Conduct done.
SFA: I know that’s exactly what he told President Xi as they were walking out and he said let’s rush it and then State Councilor Wang Yi turns to me and said, “is he serious?” I said, “yeah, whenever he talks like that, he’s serious”. Alright we are China coordinators, now what we have is a Single Negotiating Draft and some people may think that is a great thing but it is as long, might be as long as Leviticus. But basically they did is anybody who had the idea they bring it there, they bring it there, and sometimes they would repeat themselves again and again and can you imagine going over the draft, we will all be dead if we reach for the time. So, the first thing that I promise is this: I don’t care, I throw this to DFA, I don’t care what anybody thinks about what our relations to China, we are, to the fullest extent or I’m gonna hold this against you, we are gonna push for a Code of Conduct because that is how the parties to the South China Sea will be able to work with each other or, if necessary, go around each other. But that has to be made precise. But the first thing I insist on is this: here is the non-negotiable, the code of conduct will never exclude a Western Power, well, the United States from the area because that is part of my national friends, that’s the Mutual Defense Treaty. No. So, there. Now, with that, you notice I don’t mention the other western countries because frankly I think their naval capability is a joke. With that, you have the assurance of a balance of power in the region and we negotiate how we are gonna deal with each other in this or that event, accident, and so on. And I believe we can do this. I have a brilliant team here and they are going to reduce the long, levitical scroll to possibly to eight pages and then we are gonna start reading on that and I want that done before we step down because I take the honor of having been appointed China Coordinator seriously and that means we speak for China, we speak for ourselves and we also speak for China when China says we want this to move forward and that’s exactly what I’ve done. The excuse has been that there is COVID and that it is...this kind of negotiation requires face-to-face. I said look, Karen, are engaged right now talking to each other, and I said, “No, we are gonna do it by Zoom”, and they said, “No, face-to-face and they are afraid of coming here because they might get infected or us going there, we might get infected”. I said. “the only time face-to-face is justified is if you look like George Clooney”. As far as I know, none of us here–in media, in government–really looks like George Clooney.
KD: Okay. Alright. Well, actually, Secretary, it is quite charming that you are able to insert that in considering that...wait, I want to detail first…
SFA: The argument if it has to be face-to-face, “why?”. Did you not understand me? Now you do.
KD: Okay. Is that a delaying tactic, exactly coming from China?
SFA: I expected it as a delaying tactic so I said, “no, we do it digitally”. When the time comes and they finally agree, I will pay for them to come over.
KD:Karen Davila: Okay. Very quickly, Secretary. So, right now for the ordinary individual to understand you have a single negotiating draft right now, you want it down to eight pages, and you said, and I wanna make sure that I heard this properly, you said a non-negotiable in the COC, did you said never explode western…
SFA: Exclude the western power, exclude foreign power.
KD: Never explode or explore?
SFA: Never exclude foreign power. I mean a foreign power from outside [GARBLED]. No. To begin with there is a freedom of the open seas right? Our whole architecture of safety, our whole architecture of international relations and our claim to our rights in the South China Sea all rest on all fabric of international law of which the very significant part is the Law on the Sea.
KD: Okay, another one Secretary. Will the Code of Conduct include for example Scarborough Shoal, we know that…
SFA: A Code of Conduct is a code of geographical, geographical extents.
KD: No, I mean when I say Scarborough Shoal, in terms of both parties behavior when it comes to…
SFA: It happens to those situations…
SFA: The situation when I have one side said it’s mine, the other said no no we own that
KD: Yes, yes
SFA: Yes, I hope. It should do that. What you do? And as I said we have our in-house experts working on that and I suppose in that situation, pretty much like the oil and gas explorations MOU I drafted on the spot, it should be, it is intended to avoid an open conflict.
SFA: If it’s a conflict, no question about it.
KD: Is it, is it
SFA: ……..no, but an open conflict, that’s what we want to avoid.
KD: Yeah and….
KD: Yeah because I know that a few years back, Malacañang said that now Filipino fishermen are unhindered to fish in Scarborough Shoal but reports say that it’s outside, it’s in the opening only and this has been a lot of controversy because it involves livelihood and…
SFA: No. Yeah, I can tell you, when Duterte came to power, he was presented with a fact. There was a confrontation between our side and the Chinese side in the South China Sea, the United States said, “stand down”, we stood down, so did the Chinese. The United States said, “withdraw”, we withdraw the Chinese in fact and I guess the United States said such slug. So that’s the situation we have. And it was something that fishermen could go in and I myself would not like to make to go too much about that because of course, of course that they can legally go in - it’s ours. Now, is it safe to go in? And that’s another banana and to that extent, we were able to get in. But I am certain that we’re not gonna pursue that approach where China asked, “Okay we can go up to the entrance. Okay you can go a little closer to this, and then maybe all the way to the shore and fish from there”. No, because that’s mine.
SFA: We couldn’t mind to ask but I’m certainly not going to take it as a way of life and a way of foreign policy.
KD: Okay, another question is, the recent incident of a Chinese vessel seeking, what the Ambassador said, “a humanitarian shelter from a coastal state”. You did say it was not an intrusion, but were there any kinds of protocols breached for example?
SFA: Okay, so as you noticed, more on Twitter. I first got the report from here and they called up from Beijing saying that this vessel is facing dangerous seas and would like to seek refuge. You know where the vessel was? And the common narrative between Coast Guard, Navy and diplomacy: they were in the Pacific Ocean, which they have the right to explore. They were in a research vessel and they were seeking to go in. We got that message and later on, it was reinforced by a message coming from the Chinese Embassy in Manila and so we worked on it and I said, “Okay they come in to seek shelter”. Now, there was a report that said that the Coast Guard had challenged them that they wanted to board. Later on, when I spoke to the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard said that, well actually, no one is allowed to board a foreign vessel that’s government. And so that would have been improper on our part, so I guess there was no “challenge”. We wanna board and they said you can’t, and apparently not in our Coast Guard which [GARBLED], said we’re not allowed to do that, that’s a government vessel. But anyway they can pass...
KD: I see, so reports
SFA: ...they immediately took the shortest route out of our territory; whatever they wanted to do.
KD: Yeah, so reports claiming that the Philippine Coast Guard tried to board and the Chinese vessel didn’t allow them to board are not true? The Coast Guard told you they didn’t even try.
SFA: We wouldn’t do it because it’s not legal to do that. On the other hand, that story is there, I believe the Coast Guard, they said they did not even try. It’s not proper, it’s a government vessel. If it’s a private vessel, I suppose they could be smugglers and they need, even if they’re seeking refuge we’re gonna board it.
KD: Okay, now as Secretary before we move to another topic, what can the Philippines do to really convince, push, and influence China to act faster when it comes to the Code of Conduct, I mean clearly you did say…
SFA: It’s not China, it’s not China. It’s Southeast Asia.
KD: Okay... alright, but to agree to it alright….
SFA: But we are not dropping the ball, nobody’s dropping the ball, but there’s dribbling going on, and I’m tired of the dribbling
SFA: Remember China is not part of ASEAN
KD: Yes, but then I think what’s important here is you want China of course to, I mean they are the party that we want to sign; so before the President leaves, what would then push them to actually, go ahead…
SFA: You mean in Southeast Asia, the ASEAN States,I don’t know what will push them but I certainly will not, I will not conceal the fact that it was our side that dribbled it, ASEAN side. I don’t do cover-ups.
KD: So it was ASEAN, alright. Then how would you then ensure that the Code of Conduct would then be finished by the time the President leaves office?
SFA: You know the Code of Conduct, it’s adoption would be in the ASEAN way by consensus so if 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 don’t agree or even one and then I guess that’s that
KD: Are you seeing a problem with our ASEAN neighbors?
SFA: Well, so far they’re are not exactly pushing it. I wouldn’t even, you know, the point is, I told my people here: “We are the China Coordinator. We weren’t the China coordinator to dribble the ball, we are to push it. And so we are pushing it. Sadly, COVID came in and gave us this George Clooney excuse; but I’m putting end to that.
Karen Davila: Okay, alright we’re gonna take a quick break Secretary. When we return, we will talked about the updates on the vaccine and also the work that the Department of Foreign Affairs is doing for our overseas Filipino workers. Headstart will be right back, stay with us.
KD: Alright welcome back to Headstart. This is the second half of Hot Copy. We still have with us Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Secretary Teddy, let’s talk about Myanmar. So first I wanted to ask you, recently the Senate tackled a resolution by Senator Leila De Lima urging the DFA to consider any resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the human rights abuses being committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya people. So that was first. I wanna ask you about that particular Senate Resolution first. Your response to that?
SFA: My response to that was actually on Youtube. I was a little hot under the collar. I said, I do not want the Western world to link any way, take any credit for the restoration which I’m sure will come given the courage of Suu Kyi, of democracy. Because those bastards tore her to pieces, made her vulnerable to military pressure.
KD: Actually I read that.
SFA: No. I don’t pay attention to that resolution at all. In fact, I postponed it. I’m going to stand by Suu Kyi. Democracy, and the arrangement that she..very wisely - Remember she’s not an ordinary person. She’s a daughter of George Washington. She’s a daughter of the founder of Burma. The daughter of the founder of the Burmese Army and in her own right, she’s the mother of democracy. Such as it is, and she had to fight step-by-step and you know what because all diplomats, by the way we don’t.., diplomats are noticing the world of the wrong, the world consists of the truth, not fantasy and they say that the army has kept Myanmar together. And I, in fact, told Suu Kyi when I met her, I said that whatever happens, ma’am, I know it’s hard walking the tide of trouble of democracy, of authoritarianism, the army and the people, but one thing you must remember is that the West likes to break up countries in order to steal from them. Look at Syria, I mean it’s not okay..(overlapped)
KD: I don’t mean that’s okay..yeah (overlapped)
SFA: You know I’m really angry because I know that’s what they want, they’re hungry, for the oil and gas on shore of Burma and it’s huge forest reserves. That’s the only thing they understand. The other one is self-promotion as a Human Rights Advocates. That’s the other thing cause it’s another whole industry. Go ahead.
KD:Okay. I meant by okay as to moving on of what they said, Secretary. Does this mean, was your statement, is this the stand of the Philippine government? Because..(overlapped).
SFA: Yes because I am Secretary of Foreign Affairs (overlapped).
KD: Secretary Roque said earlier that Myanmar issue was an internal matter and (overlapped)
SFA: Well, that’s Harry Roque. I already told you but I said I love him but I said “mwah” when I thought he was hurt but I’ve spoken.
KD: Will the Philippines issue then a stronger statement other than what you did. An official statement let’s say coming from the Office of the President. You did say you are especially concerned. That’s the statement (overlapped)
SFA: I want to engage with the, not the army, with the situation in Burma and see if I can restore the status quo ante, which is not to say for the army to retreat but for the army, Suu Kyi, freedom to work hand-in-hand again, because it was working. I don’t know what they felt threatened about. Was it because she won the elections, 82% of the seats went to her party? Whatever it is, I’m gonna proceed on the basis. I’m not gonna proceed on the basis of anybody shooting his mouth off.
KD: Given your strong convictions, are you open to being a mediator of some kind. Clearly the Philippines would be able to, interfere is not the word, but do you see the Philippines as participating (overlapped).
SFA: The Burmese are very jealous of their national prerogatives. No, I don’t, I wouldn’t..I’d help anyone who’s sincere and you know who are the major powers there? There’s India, Thailand is around and there is India, Thailand is a big military power and there’s China. I saw a piece of something that came out on social media about the erasure of Chinese influence in Burma and why? Why would you remove the influence? I mean they obviously earned it by investing in their country by helping it. Just like, whenever I’m going to the UN for a vote, because China has for the past 30 years has invested hugely in the development, not exploitation, okay? Only crazy people would call it exploitation, in the development of Africa. So do you think I’m gonna go there? I remember when our arbitral award would go out to the Non-Aligned Movement, for a vote, please just include one little paragraph and of course my African friends are hugging me like that and they said no. Not included. And they would hug me harder, “love you” but no.
KD: So you’re seeing it is important for the Philippines to take a stronger stand (overlapped)
SFA: (Inaudible) ..Yes, strong position on the return of the status quo ante. Now do I have the presumption to think that I should be a mediator? Absolutely not.
KD:Another question is, Filipinos in Myanmar, Secretary. I’m sure there are circumstances that have been brought to you. What is the DFA..what actions will you be taking?
SFA: One is, it is a military emergency, I assume that our people are apolitical and that they’re safe. My first reaction was to prepare for evacuation if the situation will deteriorate but I’m not going to speculate it will.
KD: And there are no reports of Filipinos wanting to leave Myanmar, Secretary?
SFA: No, so far none. But I’m gonna be meeting with my ambassador at 2PM. But of course we’ll talk about it and I guess it’ll be a state secret you know the same situation [GARBLED] because we can’t operate, you know, out in the open all the time.
KD: And now, I’m curious, there’s no concern just yet for OFWs of Filipinos in Myanmar, the background of many Filipinos in Myanmar are they mostly, Secretary, in…
SFA: Wait, one second they’re gonna check.
SFA: I’ll get back to you on that.
KD: Okay, so recently the first batch of six Filipinos
SFA: So, I first went to Myanmar by the way as a member of the Board of Directors of San Miguel, I wanted us to invest San Miguel in Myanmar, we met with the junta and they said we’re gonna want to put money here and develop, you know the [GARBLED] Myanmar etc., but take care of Suu Kyi please because we love her, but you know what happened? They said, “Well why would you want to do that?” This was their most brilliant General, handsome man, talk about George Clooney, because his mother’s English. And he said no, why are you into alcohol because we have beer. They made the beer at the backyard
SFA: I said “So what’s the problem?”, It’s just let them do it in the backyard. And then I said we’re a major manufacturing power for processed food, we wanna come in and start canned goods, and he said “Well no no no because you know we have wet markets and it’s a kind of a traditional way of doing...and then he looked at me and he said. You wanna modernize us that fast? Had you been around? Sige, I’ve been around and I noticed something that there are no plastic garbage bags in the streets.yeah and he said have you your country, it’s full of plastic bags, that’s the price of development.
KD: Secretary we’ve just have few minutes to go, so i need to just go on sa some topics. Just very quickly. I know there are some sectors though, I mean some editorials that are actually saying at one point Ann Sung Kyi’s compromising with the military did her in when she did not speak on behalf of the Rohingya muslims, it’s the same military she compromised with that actually arrested and detained her. And what do you make of that…
SFA: I would describe them as limp-wristed liberals who don’t understand the process of democracy and how they destroyed her. A woman was trying to walk a tight rope between the necessity of the army to keep Myanmar together and the need for democracy for the people of Burma that I don’t understand. I remember one editorial, I’ll never forget it. It came out of the New York Times. I forgot his name, Brokovich, some bitch, anyway, he said that Cory Aquino had no experience, as a housewife
SFA...No, that’s important, because they did it to her but they made a mistake because she stood and said yes I am just a housewife, remember that speech?
KD: I remember that, yes…
SFA: I have no experience in stealing, cheating and killing
KD: Okay, that was a classic speech…
SFA: The west is very good in destroying democratic movements. Why would you that? Unless they own it.
KD: Very quickly, I know that there were six Filipinos that have arrived already coming from Damascus and how many are you expecting, they’revictims of human trafficking, illegally hired to work in Syria…
SFA: Well what I was told - that there were 34 and we’re cleaning out the shelters; from the new year, we’re gonna have zero in the shelters. I have recalled five staff from Damascus, the CDA there is fantastic and I have given her four who would back her up and her top approach to the way of running things with OFWs that are being abused.
KD: Are you taking action with workers that in effect, well now, it’s because it’s COVID it’s quite difficult. In the future, on those wanting to work for example, and usually the human trafficking, they’re illegaly hired in Syria, it’s not...yeah…
SFA: I was exposed to these problems since I was in Congress they’re apparently trafficked from Cotabato and we are a member of ASEAN, so there’s no need for Visas so they get...and once they’re out then they are now in a third country, from there they are trafficked God knows where. But of course, it’s obviously illegal trafficking because all OFWs should really pass through the Department of Labor and POEA who are fantastic, Hans Leo Cagdac, Bebot Bello, these guys are dedicated to their safety .but for some reason this business they’re going on, I can’t do everything.
KD: Would you propose a ban for example in the future, of course now, it’s not as important right now because of Covid, but in the future, is a ban a possibility?
SFA: Well we have had those bans but at the height of it we banned to Iraq, during...we banned to Libya, we banned to Syria so that’s what I know. Talk about the war, that’s a big one. And so we have those bans, and of course there are pleas to lift the ban from the countries that need our fantastic Filipino workers. Yeah, but you gotta help us protect them and I believe that these foreign governments do what they can, everything they can to protect them. But you know, even as we can’t protect our own people here from criminal elements, they can’t protect our people there, from criminal elements also.
KD: Okay, my last question is about the vaccines, given you spoke with Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Is there a new US commitment, is there an update on your end. I know these are high level negotiations. Secretary Carlito Galvez is doing his own negotiations but from your end, Secretary?
SFA: What Carlito Galvez works with, is what we have a task that there is a vaccine expert panel task force and the mandate of the DFA through its embassies and missions is to follow up developments of vaccines, effectivity etc. problems, and also to begin only negotiations for the acquisition of vaccines and then that’s thrown over to Galvez. Galvez has asked me to engage with India more, and just recently I had a meeting with Gamaleya, Russian Vaccine which they gave me of course, they gave me good playup on that, and then they saw my face, that’s the beauty of Digital Diplomacy, in my eyebrows going up, and I said you don’t have to believe us. We just wait for the journal Lancet, it’ll be up on Friday and Goddamn it came out, the praises of Sputnik V.
KD: So you’re engaging India more and clearly talks with Gamaleya are coming from the DFA end.
Okay, now my last question before we go because it’s 8:55 but very quickly, I’d like to ask an update Sir on the case of former Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro…
SFA: Well the report is already in the palace and it was submitted exactly on the day that I said it would. And I would like to leave it that way. I don’t like lynch mobs. I also don’t like dispensing summary justice, I guess that’s what happens when you go to a good law school.
KD: Alright on that note, Si., I would like to thank you Secretary for your time this morning, as always it’s a pleasure speaking with you.
SFA: Thank you, Karen. Thank you so much.
KD: Stay strong, Sir. Thank you.