Carpio explained that Recto Bank is part of the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where Filipinos should enjoy exclusive sovereign right to fish.
Michael Varcas
Carpio: Allowing China to fish in Philippines EEZ unconstitutional
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s decision to allow Chinese fishermen to trawl in Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea violates the 1987 Constitution, Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned Tuesday.

Carpio explained that Recto Bank is part of the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where Filipinos should enjoy exclusive sovereign right to fish.

“The Philippine government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in Philippine (EEZ) in the (West Philippine Sea) because it will violate the Constitution,” the SC magistrate stressed in a statement sent to media.

He cited Article 12, Section 2 of the Charter, which declares: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

“The Philippines has exclusive sovereign right to exploit all the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in its (EEZ). This sovereign right belongs to the Filipino people and no government official can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent,” Carpio pointed out.

Carpio said the national territory is defined by Article 1 of the Constitution to include other submarine areas over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction.

He also cited the 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, which declared Recto Bank as part of the country’s EEZ.

“The arbitral tribunal at The Hague has ruled with finality that the Philippines has jurisdiction over its (EEZ) in the (West Philippine Sea), including the Reed Bank. For purposes of our Constitution, the national territory includes our EEZ in the (West Philippine Sea), including the Reed Bank,” he stressed.

Carpio said he believed that the government should instead tap the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to protect Recto Bank and other parts of the country’s EEZ from poaching foreign fishermen.

“The (AFP) is specifically tasked by the Constitution to be the protector of the people and to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory. The commander-in-chief of the (AFP) is the President, who has the constitutional duty to direct the (AFP) to protect the nation’s marine wealth in its (EEZ),” he added.

Carpio issued the statement after the Palace said it would allow China to fish in the country’s waters because they are friends.

No authority

Duterte does not have the authority to allow foreigners to exploit resources in the country’s EEZ, senators said yesterday.

Duterte’s statement that China would continue to fish within the Philippines’ EEZ because of the friendship between the two countries has raised questions whether it is a new Philippine policy.

“Is this to be viewed as a successful Chinese invasion without a shot being fired?” former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Del Rosario agreed with the position that not stopping China from fishing in Philippine territorial waters is a clear violation of the Constitution.

The government should also answer how close the Philippines is toward also giving up its exclusive rights to oil and gas within its EEZ, the former foreign affairs secretary said. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has been critical of how the Duterte administration was handling the Recto Bank incident, gave a sarcastic response to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who said on Tuesday that Chinese can fish in the EEZ as the Philippines and China are friends. – With Paolo Romero, Pia Lee-Brago

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