MANILA — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said he saw nothing wrong with “dreaming” that China would “someday” return Philippine-claimed islands which it seized to turn into artificial islands.
Roque made this remark after Senator Grace Poe slammed the latter for what she described as “wishful thinking” that China would someday return the islands it took from the Philippines.
Poe said that the West Philippine Sea “will freeze over first” before China would ever decide to return the islands.
However, Roque said that it was not difficult to imagine a time when it could happen since the United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal had already decided that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in July 2016.
“May desisyon kasi na ang karagatan kung saan ginawa ang artificial islands, na yan ay kabahagi ng exclusive economic zone ng ating bayan (There is a decision on the sea region where the artificial islands were made, that it is part of our exclusive economic zone),” Roque said in a press conference Friday at Dr. Manuel T. Fuentebella Memorial Hospital in Sagñay, Camarines Sur.
“Ang sa akin lang, libre mangarap. Bakit hindi tayo mangangarap? Ang sabi meron tayong sovereign rights…so ergo, kapag nagkaroon ng pagkakataon, mapapasa atin yang mga islang yan (For me, it’s free to dream. Why shouldn’t we dream? The tribunal says we have sovereign rights…so ergo, if there is a chance, we can get those islands back),” he added.
Roque hit Poe when she compared China to “thieves” or “bandits” saying that it was enough to say that the Philippines and China simply had disagreements as it continued to maintain strong foreign relations.
“Whether or not ang Tsina ay pwede makumpara sa mga magnanakaw, sa mga bandido. Sa larangan ng foreign relations, dahil kapitbahay nila, wag naman natin sila tawaging magnanakaw at bandido (Whether or not China can be compared to thieves or bandits. In foreign relations, because we’re neighbors, we shouldn’t call them thieves or bandits),” said Roque.
“Sabihin nalang natin may hidwaan, may hindi pagkakasunduan may pinagaawayan. Pero lahat yan nareresolba sa mapayapang paraan (Let’s just say that there’s a rift, there are disagreements, there are arguments. But all those can be solved through peaceful means,” he added.
The Presidential Spokesperson, meanwhile, reiterated that China’s island-building in the West Philippine Sea happened during the administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III and that the current administration was “unable to prevent it.”