The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Charles C. Jose, in cooperation with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Regional Office in Iloilo headed by Regional Director Atty. Ma. Janet C. Mesa and PIA-Iloilo Manager Jaime Cabag Jr., returned to Iloilo City for a more comprehensive engagement on the West Philippine Sea issue by holding a multi-sectoral forum, campus tours and live media appearances from August 12 to 14. The DFA and PIA first conducted a forum for the local media in Iloilo in December 2014.
The forums aim to enhance the audience’s understanding of the core issues of the dispute, the principles guiding our country’s official policy, and inform them of the Government efforts to resolve the issue.
On August 12, Assistant Secretary Jose held its first campus tour in Iloilo before students and faculty members of the Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISATU). His lecture elicited plenty of questions and insights from the audience. The second campus tour took place at the St. Paul University on August 13, where the Assistant Secretary delivered a lecture before an audience composed of more than 300 students and faculty members from different colleges and universities in Iloilo.
During the two forums, the audience noted China’s aggressive actions on the West Philippine Sea, particularly the reclamation activities and its damaging effects on the marine environment. Many members of the audience also expressed concern over China’s non-participation in the arbitration case and its apparent disregard of the rule of law. Assistant Secretary Jose informed them that the Philippines has chosen to pursue a peaceful settlement disputes through the legal and diplomatic tracks and emphasized the primacy of the rule of law. “We cannot have a regional order where might makes right,” he stated.
Assistant Secretary Jose conducted a multi-sectoral forum at the Iloilo Grand Hotel on August 13 before an audience composed of representatives from local government agencies, non-governmental organizations, religious sector, businesses, youth, and members of the media. He expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome he received from Iloilo and thanked his audience and hosts for providing the opportunity for DFA and PIA to deepen its engagement with the locals in one of the most critical international issues of our time. He encouraged the audience to discuss what they’ve learned from the forum with their families and communities.
The DFA Spokesperson also engaged the local media through a press conference on August 12, live interviews with Bombo Radyo on August 13 and Aksyon Radyo on August 14, and a tv guesting with ABS-CBN “Sikat Ka! Iloilo” on August 14. He cited the media’s role as valuable partners and encouraged them to further intensity their coverage of the issue in the future.
The DFA and PIA are scheduled to conduct more multi-sectoral forums on the West Philippine Sea in other major regions throughout the country within the year. It has already held similar forums in Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Subic, Olongapo, Laoag City, Vigan City, Puerto Princesa City, Tuguegarao City, and Dumaguete City.