Duterte: No stopping China from fishing in Philippines waters

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte: No stopping China  from fishing in Philippines waters
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state has sovereign rights to explore, use, conserve and manage the natural resources in its 200-nautical- mile EEZ. Recto Bank, known internationally as Reed Bank, is within the Philippines’ EEZ.

MANILA, Philippines — As critics question the presence of the Chinese ship that hit a Filipino boat near Recto Bank earlier this month, President Duterte said China would continue to fish within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) because of the friendship between the two countries.

“I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends,” Duterte told reporters Monday in Mandaluyong City, when asked if China should be prevented from fishing in the Philippines’ EEZ. 

“And they are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation,” he added. 

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state has sovereign rights to explore, use, conserve and manage the natural resources in its 200-nautical- mile EEZ. Recto Bank, known internationally as Reed Bank, is within the Philippines’ EEZ. 

The Philippines and China are now investigating to determine who should be held accountable for the boat sinking incident, but some sectors said the probe should also determine why a Chinese vessel was in the Philippines’ EEZ in the first place.

Duterte said the Philippines cannot impose sanctions on the Chinese ship unless there is an investigation.

“But whether or not it is acceptable to the Chinese side is something which is altogether different,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said China would not allow itself to be barred from fishing in Philippine EEZ because it claims historic rights over the area. 

“They will not allow it because as far as they are concerned, they have historical right to that. Two, if we will allow it because we’re friends naman, eh di magbigayan muna tayo, yun ang punto ni Presidente (Let’s share resources. That’s the point of the President),” Panelo said at a press briefing yesterday. 

But Panelo stressed that the Philippines does not recognize China’s claim of historic rights. 

“Didn’t the President ask them what was their basis for claiming the entire South China Sea? Just because its name is South China Sea? We don’t believe that,” the spokesman said. 

But Panelo said the President does not grant China the right to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ.

“Hindi naman grant, siguro parang tino-tolerate mo lang (Not really grant, perhaps you are just tolerating it), not necessarily grant. Para kasing friends nga daw eh, kung friends eh di magbibigayan kayo (Since we are friends, let’s share resources),” he said.

Panelo also said he would ask Duterte whether his remarks constitute a policy statement. He claimed the President was not committing treason when he made the statement because the arbitral court’s ruling in 2016 had noted that a state may allow another state to exploit the resources within its EEZ. 

Third party probe

Panelo stressed that Duterte is open to conducting a joint probe and having a third party conduct an investigation on the incident. He also said China should release the findings of its investigation. 

“Kailangan ilabas na lang nila, bakit ko pa tatanungin? (They should release it. Why do I have to ask them?)” Panelo told CNN Philippines yesterday when asked whether he inquired with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua about the results of Beijing’s probe. 

“You know, from the very start, they said they (would) hold accountable the guilty party and they (would) not tolerate such ‘irresponsible behavior.’ That was their assurance,” he added. 

Panelo said there is a need to determine whether the vessel that rammed the Filipino boat belonged to the Chinese militia. 

“So if it’s a private vessel, the government should not be involved... (If it’s a Chinese militia), they would have a problem. They will have to do something about that,” he added. 

Panelo said the administration is still waiting for China’s response on the proposal to conduct a joint probe. 

“If the findings of the two sides are the same with respect to the issues raised like the nature of the accident, like the accountability, plus the compensation, so why is there a need to have another party resolve it?” he said. 

Panelo said Zhao had expressed optimism that the issue would be resolved. 

“He said there is nothing that the best of friends will not agree on. We are friends so we can settle this for the benefit of those involved. What is important to the Philippines is that the act of abandoning our Filipino fishermen is condemnable and there should be accountability for that. We’re concerned on that,” the spokesman said. 

For her part, Sen. Cynthia Villar said it is unnecessary to have a third party in the probe of the sinking of the Gem Vir 1.

Villar told local newsmen in Dagupan City yesterday after she spoke at the Pangasinan State University commencement exercises that the Philippines should investigate the incident on its own.

Can’t be trusted

From his first hand experience as the Philippines’ top diplomat, former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said China “cannot be trusted.”

Speaking to “The Chiefs” Monday night on One News-Cignal TV, Del Rosario cited examples of China’s unreliable declaration, including a transaction brokered by the United States that China allegedly breached. 

China had said in the White House that it would not militarize the South China Sea.

“As they were saying this they were militarizing. The same with another leader about island building. At the time they were saying this, at that particular time, on the ground they were island building,” Del Rosario added.

A US Department of Defense annual report to Congress noted that China continued militarization in the South China Sea by placing anti-ship cruise missiles and long range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands.

This allegedly violated a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that China does not intend to pursue militarization of the Spratly Islands, the US Department of Defense report also said. 

“So I have had this experience and dealing with their ambassador as well that China cannot be trusted, but what can you do, right? So we need to work with our allies more closely. We have many allies,” Del Rosario said.

The Philippines’ allies, he said, want a rules-based order.

“This is the only way that we can work well together and the rule of law should be upheld,” Del Rosario said.

Even with full accommodations being granted to China by the Philippine government, Del Rosario pointed out that Beijing allegedly continues its unlawful actions on Filipinos. – With Eva Visperas, Pia Lee-Brago

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