In this May 16, 2019 photo, Senate President Tito Sotto answers questions from the media during the Kapihan sa Senado forum.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo, file
Exclusivity? Sotto says fish in Philippine EEZ could be from China
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - June 27, 2019 - 4:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Tito Sotto insisted that it is "very difficult" to determine exclusivity in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This statement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte said the Chinese can continue fishing in Philippine waters because of the friendship between the two countries.

Critics have pointed out that the president's position on the country's EEZ can be a basis for impeachment as he is constitutionally mandated to protect the nation's marine wealth.

Sotto, however, said that filing an impeachment complaint over Duterte's stand on the West Philippine Sea would be a very good test case for that.

"The fish could be coming from China and the fish from the Philippines could be going to China," Sotto told ANC's "Early Edition" Thursday.

"There are exclusive type of fish that are only found in China but can be found here because of migration," he added.

What the Senate president missed was that, under the constitution, Filipino citizens have the exclusive right to use and enjoy marine wealth in archipelagic waters, including the EEZ.

READ: Duterte's remarks on sovereignty, EEZ 'erroneous' — ex-solgen Hilbay | Duterte's remarks on Chinese fishermen in Philippine EEZ worsens situation — Del Rosario

This is consistent with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Under Article 56, Part V of the UNCLOS, the coastal state, in this case the Philippines, has "sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds."

In the case of migratory species, the UNCLOS provides that the coastal state and other nations that fish in the region are obligated to cooperatre directly or through appropriate international organizations.

The UNCLOS also provides that the coastal state would be the one to determine the allowable catch of the living resources in its EEZ.

Article 62(4), Part V of the UNCLOS also states that, "Nationals of other States fishing in the exclusive economic zone shall comply with the conservation measures and with the other terms and conditions established in the laws and regulations of the coastal State." 

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