In his first debate appearance in the campaign for the May 2022 polls, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. claimed that the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute became an election issue only in this campaign.

This is false.

STATEMENT

During presidential debate hosted by Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) News on Feb. 15, Manila Times Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Dante “Klink” Ang II asked the four participating candidates what they would do, if they win, about the small fishermen “harassed by foreign vessels” and fishing boats from countries with territorial claims on parts of the WPS.

Marcos Jr. answered:

“Marami talaga tayong issue, hindi lamang sa conflicting claims sa gitna ng Pilipinas at saka China kaya’t ngayon lang ang nakita kong national election na naging issue ang West Philippine Sea or ang foreign policy.”

(We really have lots of issues, not only the conflicting claims between the Philippines and China, that’s why I see only in this national election that the West Philippine Sea or foreign policy has become an issue.)

Source: SMNI News Official Facebook Page, LIVE! SMNI Presidential Debate 2022 | February 15, 2022, Feb. 15, 2022, watch from 1:12:44 to 1:12:59

The former senator added:

“Sa palagay ko, sa dami ng ating kailangang ayusin sa ating pagsasama, sa pag-aalyansa natin sa Tsina, ay unahin natin ito. Ito ang pinakaunang dapat nating simulan nang makabalik ang mga mangingisda doon sa kanilang palaisdaan na matagal na ginagamit, na daan-daang taon na.”

(I think that, among the many things that we have to settle regarding our alliances, especially with China, we should prioritize this. This should be the first we should settle so that our fisherfolk can return to their fishing grounds that they have long been using, for hundreds of years.)

Source: watch from 1:13:00 to 1:13:21

FACT

The WPS issue, including the harassment that Filipino fishermen suffer, was raised in past national elections.

Read the full story on VERA Files Fact Check.

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