DFA’s Yasay claims he was misquoted on ASEAN

Paterno Esmaquel II
DFA’s Yasay claims he was misquoted on ASEAN
'Please don't put words into my mouth,' Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr says, denying a quote that was confirmed by reporters

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr on Wednesday, July 27, denied a quote on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that was attributed to him and confirmed by reporters.

“Please don’t put words into my mouth,” Yasay said in a news conference on Wednesday.

The quote was about Yasay justifying why he doesn’t want to include a historic ruling on the South China Sea in the joint communiqué issued by ASEAN foreign ministers. (READ: Yasay flip-flops on seeking ASEAN support for Hague ruling)

Agence France-Presse quoted Yasay as saying in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, July 26: “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?”

A recording of Tuesday’s interview by an Agence France-Presse reporter confirmed that Yasay said this in Vientiane, Laos.

Rappler also verified this with another reporter who covered Yasay in Vientiane.

On Thursday, July 28, Rappler obtained a copy of the audio recording of his interview in Laos. The relevant part of the recording can be accessed through the YouTube link below.

Yasay, however, said on Wednesday: “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.”

He continued: “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 communiqué report.”

Immediately, it was pointed out to Yasay that he was interviewed by Filipinos working for international agencies.

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

‘I made that statement?’

Before this, Yasay had found the need to clarify his statements on China regarding the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

On July 9, for instance, he issued a “rejoinder” to an interview with him by Agence France-Presse, in which he said the Philippines is willing to share resources in the disputed waters.

Previously, too, Yasay already had second thoughts about another statement attributed to him.

On July 1, during his first press conference, Yasay was asked about his statement during his first Cabinet meeting on June 30, which was aired on live TV.

Back then, Yasay was referring to the Philippines’ possible victory against China: “What if, in the face of these circumstances, China will dig in and put us to a test? They will disallow again our fishermen from fishing in Scarborough Shoal.”

When asked to comment on public feedback on his statement, the first thing Yasay said was, “I made that statement yesterday?”

When reporters said he did, and it was aired on live TV, that was when Yasay addressed the question. – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.