A fisherman’s question: How the ‘jet ski’ comment, now a joke, came about

May 11, 2021 - 3:30 PM
holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on May 10, 2021. (Presidential photo/Joey Dalumpines)

President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that his “jet ski” comment about the Chinese encroachment of the West Philippine Sea was just a “pure campaign joke” even though it was his response to a fisherman’s question in one of the presidential debates in 2016.

The chief executive in his prerecorded speech aired Monday night tackled anew his controversial comment as he defended his policy involving the eastern parts of the South China Sea that is within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Alam mo, panahon ng kampanya ‘yon. Hindi siguro sanay itong mga g*** na style ng—style ko sa kampanya, pati ‘yong bunganga ko ngayon. Nagyabang ako na pupunta ako sa Spratly, magdala ako ng flag nang sakay ako ng jet ski,” Duterte said in his May 10 speech.

The president also claimed that he bought a secondhand jet ski and then ordered some parts but it didn’t arrive.

“Eh walang dumating, ‘di wala akong magawa,” Duterte said.

“When I was plotting, nagpa-plot ako kung saan ako magdaan, nakita ko doon eh, ilan naman ‘yong tangke ng jet ski? Kailangan ko ng gasolina, supply. Eh pagtingin ko puro dagat, wala man akong makitang gasoline station along the way. Ah, sabi ko, mahirap ito. Dito tayo mamatay nang walang kakwenta-kwenta,” he added.

Duterte then stressed his comment was a mere campaign joke.

“We call it ‘bravado,’ ‘yong bravado ko that was just a pure campaign joke. At kung naniniwala kayo sa kabila, pati na siguro si Carpio, pati si—I would say that you are really stupid. Sige, maghanap ka ng tao dito magpunta ng jet ski,” he added.

“I was not taking lightly the sovereignty but it was a pure joke actually, but just to emphasize na talagang hinaluan ko lang ng biro,” Duterte said.

He shared that he doesn’t know how to swim and then once again stressed that his comment was not meant to be taken seriously.

Throwback to 2016 

Some Filipinos online pointed out that his “pure campaign joke” was an answer to a fisherman who raised a question about Chinese encroachment during the Pangasinan leg of the Pilipinas Debates 2016.

READ: From bold promise to ‘publicity stunt’: The evolution of Duterte’s jet ski pledge

A Facebook user shared a screengrab of a video as broadcasted in ABS-CBN before.

“Seryoso ‘yung tanong galing sa isang mangingisda. Siyempre seryoso—kasi kabuhayan nila ang nakataya. Siyempre seryoso— kasi usapin ito ng soberanya ng bansa. This ‘joke’ is not harmless. Far from it. It hurts. It really hurts,” he wrote.


ABS-CBN journalist Anjo Bagaoisan shared the exact words of the fisherman, Carlo Montehermezo, who asked presidential candidates how they can protect Filipinos affected by the Chinese encroachment in the West Philippine Sea five years ago.


Writer Noel Pascual shared a video clip featuring Montehermezo opening up his grievances over the harassment of Chinese Navy to Filipino fishermen like him. It was aired before he asked the question to the presidential candidates.

“Reminder that it wasn’t just some part of a campaign speech. It was the answer to an audience question coming from a fisherman asking what the candidates would do about the harassment the fishermen were experiencing from the Chinese,” Pascual tweeted.

“Sa inyo pong tumatakbong maging pangulo ng ating bansa, ano po bang pwede niyong gawin para sa’ming mangingisda upang matulungan kami na hindi itaboy ng Chinese Coast Guard at para makapamingwit kami nang mabuti, nang mapayapa,” Montehermezo asked in 2016.

Pascual also shared a video of Duterte’s answer to the fisherman’s question, where the then-Davao City mayor said it has long been his ambition to become a “hero.”

Duterte answered that he will go to China and then talk to them.

“Kapag sinabi (ng UN arbitral tribunal) na panalo tayo at ayaw ng China, I will not go to war. Pupunta ako sa China. Ngayon ‘pag ayaw nila, I will ask the Navy to bring me to the nearest boundary, diyan sa Spratly, sa Scarborough,” he said in April 2016.

“Bababa ako, sasakay ako ng jet ski, dala-dala ko yung flag ng Pilipino at pupunta ako doon sa airport nila tapos itanim ko, then I would say, ‘This is ours and do what you want with me.’ Bahala na kayo,” Duterte added.

RELATED: Juxtaposed: Duterte stance on West Philippine Sea in 2016 campaign and after winning presidency

In an interview a few months after he was sworn into office, Duterte clarified that his remark was just a “hyperbole.”

He reiterated this stance in 2018 and said that his “jet ski” remark was “just talk.”

“When I said I would go to China on a jet ski, that’s nonsense. I don’t even have… It’s just talk. I’m surprised you believed it,” Duterte said.

His spokesperson on Tuesday explained that Duterte addressed the issue in his latest speech due to the prevailing territorial row.

“Kinakailangan paalalahanan natin ang mga kababayan ng maging malinaw. Ni minsan, hindi niya binigay maski an inch of Philippine territory,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“Wala pong tigil ang pagpupula ng kritiko. Hindi po pupuwedeng manahimik ang presidente kaya kailangan ipaalam ang kasaysayan,” he added.

“Mga kababayan, hindi po kayo nagkamali. Dahil ang presidenteng hinalal niyo noong 2016, hindi po mamimigay ng teritoryo, paninindigan ang soberanyan,” Roque further said.

China has been aggressively claiming territories in the West Philippine Sea despite the 2016 United Nations tribunal ruling that recognizes the Philippines’ sovereign rights over such contested areas.

West Philippine Sea lies over the eastern parts of the South China Sea that are within Manila’s EEZ.

The EEZ is an area in which the coastal country has sovereign rights over the sea’s exploration and use of its marine resources. This is 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the baseline.