The Claim: Marcos Jr. claimed that this year’s election was the first election where the West PH Sea is a major issue.
Why we fact-checked this: SMNI’s Facebook Live on the presidential debate is still up, containing Bongbong Marcos’ remark on the West PH Sea. With its reach and number of followers, other voters might still believe his claim.
The Facts: During the 2016 presidential election, the West Philippine Sea was already a major issue. The majority of the actions taken by the Aquino administration in dealing with China’s territorial claims and activities in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea was supported by all candidates (Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago, and Rodrigo Duterte).
Even Rodrigo Duterte assured the voters that he would resolve territorial conflicts in the South China Sea by battling the Chinese Navy on a jet ski. He also declared that if he wins the presidency in the 2016 elections, he is willing to die to defend the Philippines’ claims to the South China Sea.
Grace Poe said she would go beyond the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China to the Philippines’ other connections with the Asian powerhouse. She also expressed that she will continue the arbitration lawsuit in The Hague, Netherlands, before a UN-backed tribunal and she also stressed the importance of nurturing other elements of Philippines-China relations.
Mar Roxas, on the other hand, said that the “increasing competition” between the world’s two biggest economies – necessitated the fight for the West Philippine Sea.
For Jejomar Binay, he wants Manila and Beijing to form a joint venture to develop resources in the South China Sea. “China has money,” he says, adding that he hopes to improve commercial relations.
Miriam Santiago said she will take a “more progressive” approach in resolving the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with Beijing should she be elected into office. She slammed the government’s “complacency” on the subject, citing reports of ships docking in the disputed areas.
On February 15, 2022 at a presidential debate broadcast by Apollo Quiboloy’s SMNI News, Marcos also waffled between pressing for two-sided discussions supported by China and involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and trying “every single way we can” to resolve the long-running disagreement.
During the discussion, Marcos also claimed that the West Philippine Sea problem was “not about fish” but about “territorial waters,” a claim that Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said is “totally wrong.”
Fact-checking, correcting, and providing vast background and information about the issue on the West Philippine Sea is crucial in today’s context.