Press Release
February 21, 2011

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

On Sen. Escudero's proposal of a prisoner exchange agreement between the Philippines and China

It has to be a mutual decision between the Philippines and country that we wish to extend those relations with, so we cannot propose it unilaterally. The China-Taiwan problem will expose Filipinos to the brutal fact of Philippine politics. It does not involve international law. It involves the stark reality and brutal facts of Philippine politics. China has already suspended the execution of the three Filipinos, but notice the language "shall be suspended from execution within the scope of Chinese law." What is the meaning of within the scope of Chinese law since you are not familiar with Chinese law? In effect, it means whenever the Chinese government thinks the Philippines is sincere with its bilateral agreement with the Chinese government, meaning the promotion of the mutual interest of the two countries. In other words, pakita mo naman na may gusto ka sa akin. Halimbawa, lagi ka na lang nililigawan ng Amerika, kilig na kilig ka naman. Sinabi na ng Senado sa presidente "Pwede ba let's rescind the Visiting Forces Agreement?" So expect, for example, that the executive branch, which is our only spokesperson abroad, will enter into negotiations with the Chinese over the suspended execution on the grounds, for example, the president will send to the Senate a message that he has now initiated the process of revoking the VFA pursuant to the resolution of the Senate. That would be one point of discussion with the Chinese.

After that will follow, perhaps, joint Chinese-Philippine military exercises instead of the Americans. You know that China and the United States are now engaging in a fierce competition of who will be the superpower, who will dominate Southeast Asia.

Another point of discussion will be the Spratly Islands. We have always maintained our claim of sovereignty over those islands together with the other Southeast Asian countries. But China has always been intractable and irreversible about its position there. So at the very least, it will ask the Philippine government "will you please stop talking about you claim?" So we don't have to abandon the claim like we did the Sabah claim, but we still have to be willing to stop talking about what China views as a derogation of its sovereignty. Instead, it will welcome statements, for example, stating that the Philippines is amenable to the statement by China that the question of sovereignty in the Spratly Islands be set aside for a while, while all the claimant countries should cooperate with each other in exploiting and developing the oil resources of that region. So you cannot expect China to simply suspend the execution of the Filipinos just because we said so and we said it very nicely and sweetly. You cannot just say "Please" in diplomatic relations and international affairs. We have to show that there is some indication of your willingness to go halfway.

Now in the case of Taiwan, the problem is that it has already instructed our economic and cultural office there--for lack of formal diplomatic relations, we don't have an embassy or consulate there�that starting from a certain date, Filipino applications for visa processing would now take longer and would be more complicated. So that is already a warning to us that if we make the wrong decision in this conflict, the 90,000 (?) Filipinos will suffer for it, plus the 5,000 that will be disembarked from that country. So you see we really have to make a zero-sum decision. It is very easy to say "Let's try and please both countries happy" but that's not possible. We have to make a choice.

On Sen. Mar Roxas going to Taiwan as an emissary of President Aquino

That is always correct, always try and negotiate. It is always a good first step, but I am saying that you cannot acquire anything from another country, especially if its territory and sovereignty is involved, unless you are willing to pay the price. So all these will come with a price. We have to be ready for it.

Actually these are just superficial appendages of the main issue. The main issue there is: Are we going to return these Chinese--who are said by Taiwan to be Taiwanese nationals--to Taiwan, or shall they be deported to mainland China. It is not a question if we apologize for this or for that. It is really a question of the physical presence of these people.

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