Recording shows Yasay didn't want ASEAN to cite Hague ruling

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr denied having justified to reporters in Vientiane, Laos, why the historic South China Sea ruling shouldn’t be part of a statement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Yasay issued this denial on Wednesday, July 27.

Rappler on Thursday, July 28, obtained a copy of the audio recording of his interview with reporters in Laos. 

In this interview in Laos, a reporter asked Yasay if the Philippines pitched that this ruling by an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) be included in ASEAN’s joint communiqué.

"Hindi, hindi (No, no)," Yasay answered. "Never, never did."

In a quote that was carried by Agence France-Presse, the Philippines' top diplomat added, "Hindi naman kasama 'yung ibang nasyon doon sa pag-file natin ng kaso sa arbitral tribunal, so bakit tayo mamimilit na ilalagay ‘yan sa ASEAN statement?"

(The other countries are not part of our filing of the case before the arbitral tribunal, so why would we insist that it be put in the ASEAN statement?)

Yasay's denial in Manila

In Manila, Yasay was asked a follow-up question about his statement in Laos. He claimed he "never said those things."

"Please don’t put words into my mouth," he said in Manila on Wednesday.

He also said he "vigorously…pushed for the inclusion and mentioning of the arbitral tribunal award" in the ASEAN statement.

"Again, this was a diplomatic tack that had to be made," Yasay said. "But we knew that there was middle ground without compromising the rights of the Philippines and the award that was recognized by the arbitral tribunal." (READ: Yasay flip-flops on seeking ASEAN support for Hague ruling)

Cambodia's foreign ministry spokesman, Chum Sounry, also said Yasay himself withdrew his own request for a mention of the tribunal ruling in ASEAN's joint communiqué.

We have embedded the audio clip of Yasay's statement in the YouTube link above.

Below is the transcript of the relevant part of his interview in Laos:

Reporter: Sir nung ginagawa 'yung joint communiqué, 'di ba, pinitch natin na makasama 'yung PCA? 

Yasay: Hindi, hindi. Never, never did. 

Reporter: Sir, sa draft, sa draft po ng ano?

Yasay: Please, okay, don't put words into my mouth. I'd like you to understand this. We are obligated under the Constitution to make sure that we resolve our disputes peacefully. We renounce war as an instrument of policy, and we would like to promote amity with all nations. 'Yan ang ating mandate. It’s okay, okay, go ahead, please. So this is the point I’d like to emphasize. Maliwanag na 'yung sinasabi natin. Hindi naman kasama 'yung ibang nasyon doon sa pag-file natin ng kaso sa arbitral tribunal, so bakit tayo mamimilit na ilalagay 'yan sa ASEAN statement? Hindi naman kasama. May claims nga 'yung other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, pero hindi sila kasama sa kaso na ito.

Below is the English translation of his interview in Laos:

Reporter: Sir, when the joint communiqué was being drafted, we pitched that it include the PCA ruling?

Yasay: No, no. Never, never did. 

Reporter: Sir, in the draft, the draft?

Yasay: Please, okay, don’t put words into my mouth. I’d like you to understand this. We are obligated under the Constitution to make sure that we resolve our disputes peacefully. We renounce war as an instrument of policy, and we would like to promote amity with all nations. That is our mandate. It’s okay, it’s okay, go ahead, please. So this is the point I’d like to emphasize. What we’re saying is clear. The other countries are not part of our filing of the case before the arbitral tribunal, so why would we insist that it be put in the ASEAN statement? They’re not part of it. There are claims by other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, but they’re not included in this case.

Meanwhile, below is the transcript of his denial on Wednesday:

Reporter: Hi, Sir, Paterno Esmaquel from Rappler. Sir, you were quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying, in Laos, “The other countries are not part of our filing of the case before the arbitral tribunal, so why would we insist that it be put in the ASEAN statement?” And well, many people are saying, our neighbors are coastal states – Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia – and the ruling affects them. So how can we say that it doesn’t—, ASEAN has nothing to do with this case filed by the Philippines against China? How would you respond to this? 

Yasay: To begin with, I dispute your contention that I said that in my interview with Rappler.

Reporter: With Agence France-Presse.

Yasay: With Agence Francois… With Agence Presse… AFP.

Reporter: Actually they said it’s an interview with reporters who covered you in Laos.

Yasay: No, I did not have any interview with reporters in Laos. I had, only yesterday, an interview with the Philippine press, explaining to them that we have arrived at a joint communiqué. Never mentioned that. And this is precisely the point I want to say now. Whether you would raise that as true or not, is water under the bridge. And I am denying that I have said this. The important thing is, ASEAN came up with a unified statement, and it came up with that joint communique report.

Reporter: Sir, sorry, I think the reporters who interviewed you were Filipinos, but they work for international agencies.

Yasay: Yes, yes. I hope you will not belabor that point because as I’ve said, I’ve never said those things, all right? And please don’t put words into my mouth.

Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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