By Arjay L. Balinbin
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. on Sunday said recent statements attributed to him regarding sovereignty issues over Benham Rise are “fake news.”
“Finake news po ako (I’m a victim of fake news),” Mr. Roque told reporters in a televised press conference in Iloilo City on Jan. 28, when asked to clarify his previous remarks regarding the underwater shelf northeast of the Philippine archipelago.
“Alam mo masama ang loob ko kasi mga prestigious daw sila, pero alam mo in journalism ang unang unang tenet po talaga ay dedication to the truth, so pinost ko na po ang video para kayo na ang maghusga. Nagpepyesta lang sila dahil marami pong nagpapapansin lalo na yung mga academic na mga mediocre,” the spokesman added.
(You know I feel bad because they said they are prestigious [news organizations]. But, you know, the first tenet in journalism is dedication to the truth, so I posted the video [of the press briefing] on Facebook for you to judge. They are feasting on it, especially those mediocre academicians who only want public attention.)
“Earlier, I responded, and I quote, ‘Because only China has qualified so far. There are other applicants, unfortunately they did not qualify according to fixed guidelines already set by the government.’ It is obvious that my statement pertains to China and not the Philippines,” he said.
On the other hand, there were reports that said Mr. Roque was referring to Filipinos.
“May dalawa po kasing tanong kung bakit binigyan ng license ang China para magconduct ng scientific study. ’Yun po ang sinagot ko kung bakit binigyan ng lisensya ang Tsina, kasi ang mga dayuhan kailangan ng lisensya dahil ang Benham Rise po ay kaparte ng continental shelf at tanging ang mga Pilipino lang ang may karapatan na mangalap ng tanging yaman at magconduct ng mga scientific researches. So ang sinabi ko ang mga Pilipino ay di kailangan ng lisensya, ang sinabi ko ang Pilipino di kailangan ng lisenya dahil meron po tayong sovereign right,” Mr. Roque explained.
(There were two questions as to why China was given a license to conduct scientific research in the area, and I answered why China was given a license. Foreigners need a license on Benham Rise because it is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. Only Filipinos have the right to explore and conduct scientific studies in the area. What I said was that Filipinos do not need a license because we have sovereign rights over Benham Rise.)
In a Facebook post, University of the Philippines’ (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay L. Batongbacal said: “Pres. Spox Roque’s claim that Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise, that “no one can do it,” that the Philippines “needs China” to do it, and “only China qualifies” is completely wrong, based on ignorance, a serious disservice to Filipino scientists in particular and the Filipino people in general, and an over-exaggeration of China’s potential role in Philippine ocean sciences.”