Rappler, Manila - Interview with Maria Ressa

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Hello and welcome. I am Maria Ressa. This is a special edition of RapplerTalk. We are here tonight withAustralia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Minister Bishop, welcome to the Philippines.

JULIE BISHOP: Goodevening. Good to be with you.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us how do you seethe Philippines today?

JULIE BISHOP: Therehas been a change of administration and change of President, and yet of courseAustralia's relationship with the Philippines is longstanding indeed. So I am here in the Philippines to meet withthe President and the new administration to reaffirm the commitment to workingcooperatively and in partnership with the Philippines. We have been longstanding friends and we wantthat to continue.

JOURNALIST: President Duterte is the firstone to successfully use social media. This was the first social media election in the Philippines. He rode to power on the wave of anger andfrustration and that does not seem to be unique in the Philippines. Are we seeing a shift in the consequences ofthe failures of neoliberal democracy?

JULIE BISHOP: No,I do not believe so at all. I think thatPresident Duterte was responding to the concerns of the people of thePhilippines and the lesson for politicians around the world is to tap intothose concerns, particularly those who feel left behind by globalisation, thosewho have been affected by the disruption of technologies and those who fearchange. And we are seeing theconsequences of that around the world whether it is Brexit, the US PresidentialElection or even here in the Philippines. But we are also seeing outcomes in elections in Europe. So I think it is a phenomenon that will bewith us for some time. There areuncertain times, restless times, but politicians – elected representatives –have to respond to those concerns.

JOURNALIST: There seems to be two waves thatare coming together now. It is thetechnology giving people a greater voice and then the kind of anger of thepeople who have been marginalized. Howdo you see this turning out?

JULIE BISHOP: Reallythe challenge is to ensure that with the benefits of globalisation, we canshare it more equitably, and I think that this is the challenge facinggovernments around the world. But whileglobalisation and economic integration, and economic competition has undoubtedbenefits, more people need to share in those benefits.

JOURNALIST: There has been this preference,both in President Trump and President Duterte, for strong-man leaders, populistleaders. How do you deal with this asthe Foreign Minister of Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Iwork very closely with all countries; countries that we have particularfriendships with like the Philippines, like the United States. Of course we will work with whomever thepeople in their wisdom choose as their President or choose as their government,and it is in the interests of our country and the region that we get along welland can cooperate in areas of common interests.

JOURNALIST: President Trump when he came intopower said that President Duterte, the President of the Philippines, essentiallypivoted away from the United States to China and Russia. This kind of thing shortly followed byMalaysia has an impact on the region. President Trump then made statements about South China Sea, pulling awayfrom TPP. How does this impact thegeopolitical balance of power here?

JULIE BISHOP: Well,I think you have to look at all of these events individually. I do not see a significant shift in UnitedStates foreign policy at all when it comes to our region. In fact, in my meetings with the US Administration,they have reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to be deeply engaged in theAsia Pacific. They have been the security guarantor and defender of theinternational rules-based order since the Second World War. We have all benefited from the United Statesalliances that both Australia and the Philippines have. Our countries have grown economically withrelative peace and stability as a result of that commitment to defend theinternational rules-based order.

So I believethat the United States would remain deeply engaged. They will have differences with countries inthe region as we have differences with each other. But overall, I am confident that they will remaincommitted on the TPP principles. It wasthe trade deal that President Trump did not negotiate. It was entered into by President Obama and hehas said that if he does not think the United States is getting a fair deal,they want to renegotiate them. We happento believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership set a very high standard. It is a quality free trade agreement, and wehope that the spirit and the principles and the benchmarks that were set in theTPP – in environmental standards, intellectual property rights, labourstandards – these can be reflected in other trade agreements, and I am sure theUnited States will continue to be an open market economy and a supporter oftrade liberalisation.

JOURNALIST: Will Australia push forward withthe TPP?

JULIE BISHOP: Weare still working with the other countries. There are 12. We are stillworking with the other 11 and maintaining contact with the United States inrelation to it, but there are also other trade agreements around. We are negotiating one with Indonesia. We are working with India and there is alsoRCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that has ASEAN at itscore and we are very keen to see that progress.

JOURNALIST: The 50th anniversaryof ASEAN will be held here in the Philippines. How would you gauge the progress? It has been a year since the ASEAN Economic Community. Many people are frustrated. I would love to hear what you think. Where is ASEAN?

JULIE BISHOP: Weare looking forward to the Philippines chairing ASEAN and we certainly urgeASEAN members to recognise the power that they have when they speak with onevoice. When I was in the United States Ispoke to the administration about the importance of ASEAN, the fact that it isa strong and powerful voice and does have a considerable moral force when itwishes to focus on an issue of common interest to the ASEAN countries.

JOURNALIST: Technology. What we have been seeing is that democracyhas been impacted by Facebook, by the rise of exponential technology, the riseof fake news. How is this impactinggovernments in our countries?

JULIE BISHOP: Well,clearly each wave of new technology has an impact, and governments andpoliticians over decades have used or feared new technologies depending uponhow they adapt. Social media can be atwo-way sword of course, but I find that it is a way of engaging very broadlywith a cross-section of people across Australia. I use social media as often as I amable. And it can – because of theanonymity that can be adopted – it can be a negative force as well. It is just a question of I think embracing itand harnessing it to your advantage, and I think skillful politicians do that.

JOURNALIST: The dangers again of thecognitive bias of people creating the echo chambers. What is the challenge for democraticgovernments?

JULIE BISHOP: Cuttingthrough with the facts. At the end of the day, false facts will be found outand people have to continue to make and remake the case and the facts –continue to advocate for the positions they believe are right to the people.

JOURNALIST: In the Philippines since theelection of President Duterte, we have had not just fake news but risingattacks against women online, rising sexism, misogynist statements. How do you advise women on how to deal withthis?

JULIE BISHOP: Itis clearly unacceptable. Violence orabuse against women in any form is totally unacceptable and we stronglyadvocate against it. We have a number ofinitiatives at the government level including engaging men to be champions ofchange, men to be the ambassadors to promote a violent-free world in terms ofwomen and their families. The Internet,social media, is just one avenue. Thereare others, so we have to be ever vigilant to ensure that violence and abuseagainst women is just not tolerated.

JOURNALIST: In your mind are women betteroff?

JULIE BISHOP: Ofcourse, I think women have come a very long way, and International Women's Dayis an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, but of course we havea long way to go before we can confidently say that women have opportunitiesequal to men in order to fulfill their potential.

JOURNALIST: In terms of again marginalisationand anger, ISIS. Australia has had to deal with this for a long time, but justthis month a cell was busted in Malaysia and Sabah that is funneling ISISfighters into the Southern Philippines. How do you see this?

JULIE BISHOP: Weare deeply concerned about ISIS and other terrorist organisations that carryout such violent attacks on civilians and innocent people. We are working in a coalition with others inIraq and Syria to crush ISIS at its source but we are also concerned aboutAustralian citizens and others from our region who have gone in order to fightwith this barbaric terrorist organisation. And as the Iraqi Security Forces, for example, have more success indriving ISIS out of Iraq, then they [foreign fighters] will, if they survive,return home. Now, this is where we are working very closely with Indonesia,Malaysia and the Philippines in particular, to ensure that we shareinformation, intelligence, law enforcement and security and defence, and borderprotection. We are all working closelytogether and that is a topic of discussion while I am in the Philippines.

JOURNALIST: Fantastic. You are meetingPresident Duterte tomorrow in Davao.

JULIE BISHOP: Yes,that is right.

JOURNALIST: The Guardian actually headlinedthis issue as 'the Davao Death Squad'. There have been a lot of accusations made against the Philippines interms of violations of human rights, extrajudicial killings. How do you deal with this charming man in hishometown? Will this be a topic of discussion?

JULIE BISHOP: Heis the President of your country, and I will pay my respect to him – in hishometown, it turns out. I am going to bein Mindanao in any event as we have a number of programs that we are workingwith the Philippine government on – particularly in education and the peaceprocess. Also, I will be announcing somefunding so that we can continue to work in partnership with the Philippines inthese areas, but also I have the opportunity to discuss a range of issues withPresident Duterte, and I am looking forward to it.

JOURNALIST: How do you see the way forwardfor the world?

JULIE BISHOP: In2017, we are in very uncertain times and I think that would be the case for theforeseeable future. With everychallenge, there is an opportunity and so, ever the optimist, I hope thatthroughout this year and beyond we will be able to continue to forge deep andlasting friendships and relationships – on economic matters, on strategicmatters and in relation to Australia and Philippines. This is an important year for us. We will be supporting the Philippines as itchairs ASEAN and as a Comprehensive Partner of the Philippines. I look forwardto deepening this already strong relationship.

JOURNALIST: Actually, can I go back and talkabout the US. You did not really mentionChina. With the rising China, greaterattention with more Chinese investors coming to the Philippines. Is China ready for this? Can China take that leadership?

JULIE BISHOP: Chinais our largest trading partner and we have a comprehensive strategicpartnership with China which I think reflects the breadth and diversity of ourrelationship with China. Of course, itis a rising economic power. It will alsobe a rising military and strategic power, but of course, we must all encourageChina to be a responsible regional and global player and ensure that it alsoembraces the international rules-based order that has served our countries sowell.

JOURNALIST: Thank you so much. We have been speaking with Australia'sForeign Minister Julie Bishop on Rappler Talk. Follow her, she is on Twitter, if you have any questions. I am Maria Ressa. Thank you for joining us.

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