Duterte breaks promise to visit Philippine Rise

Paterno Esmaquel II
Duterte breaks promise to visit Philippine Rise
The President's son Sebastian Duterte and his closest aide Bong Go ride jet skis around the undisputed Casiguran Bay instead

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte broke his promise that he will sail to the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, to assert the Philippines’ rights over this uncontested territory. 

Duterte also did not ride a jet ski as earlier planned, reminiscent of his 2016 campaign promise to ride a jet ski in the West Philippine Sea. 

Duterte on Tuesday afternoon, May 15, delivered a speech at the BRP Davao del Sur docked in Casiguran, Aurora, and left before the ship could sail to the Philippine Rise.

His chopper arrived in Aurora at around 3:45 pm and left at 5:50 pm. 

While Duterte did not go to the Philippine Rise, his son Sebastian “Baste” Duterte and his closest aide Bong Go rode jet skis around Casiguran Bay instead.

Casiguran Bay is not a disputed sea.

Go is reportedly eyeing a Senate seat.

What Duterte, Roque said

Duterte on April 27 announced he is “going to Benham Rise” to stress that “nobody owns this place” except the Philippines. 

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, on May 8 reinforced the President’s statement. Roque said Duterte will visit the Philippine Rise “on May 15 to 16,” which meant an overnight trip by the Philippine leader. 

Roque said on May 8, “The President will be commemorating the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise by visiting the Philippine Rise itself, and this is on May 15 to 16.”

On Tuesday, Roque backtracked on his earlier statement.

From announcing before that Duterte would make an overnight trip, Roque on Tuesday said the trip was not feasible, and was meant only to be symbolic.

“Tingin ko napadala na niya ang mensahe niya sa buong daigdig na tanging Pilipino lamang ang makikinabang sa Philippine Rise,” Roque told reporters. (I think he has sent his message to the whole world that only Filipinos can enjoy the Philippine Rise.)

No other country is claiming the Philippine Rise. 

China, however, is claiming ownership of the West Philippine Sea. 

The Philippines in 2016 won an international ruling asserting its rights over the West Philippine Sea, but Duterte has chosen to downplay this ruling to appease Beijing.

The President’s broken promise, and the stunt by his son and Go, drew criticism online. 

Twitter user @jason_without_y said in a public tweet on Tuesday, “Thank you, Baste and Bong Go, for asserting our sovereign rights over, uhm, Casiguran Bay, Aurora.” – Rappler.com

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.