'It's pointless': Locsin says 'verbal' fishing deal with China not a policy
In this Oct. 19, 2018 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. engages in a discussion with the Filipino community during a meeting at the Philippine Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.
Presidential Photo, file

'It's pointless': Locsin says 'verbal' fishing deal with China not a policy

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 3, 2019 - 10:17am

MANILA, Philippines — Contrary to the previous pronouncements of Malacañang, the Philippines' top diplomat said the supposed verbal agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Xi Jinping on fishing in the West Philippine Sea cannot be enforced.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. admitted that he was not aware that there was such agreement between the two leaders.

"Which goes to show that this was not written down. Otherwise, I would be briefed upon taking the position," Locsin told ANC's "Headstart" Wednesday morning.

Locsin, former Philippines' permanent representative to the United Nations, assumed the top diplomat post in October 2018 when his predecessor Alan Peter Cayetano filed his candidacy for Congress.

Asked if the verbal agreement does not legally stand, Locsin said a document is needed to prove that the agreement exists "because that's the way it is."

"It's pointless," Locsin said about the undocumented agreement, adding that Duterte might have been led to believe that there was a surplus of the allowable catch in Philippine waters.

Under Article 62 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), other states can be allowed access to the surplus of the allowable catch of the coastal state, in this case the Philippines, if it does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch.

This means that if there is a surplus of fish in the Philippine exclusive economic zone, it can be shared with foreign fisherfolks. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would be the agency that would determine the allowable fishing catch, as well as the surplus or excess, within Philippine EEZ.

"I have said worse things but the question is — is it policy? It's not policy," Locsin said, referring to the supposed verbal agreement between Duterte and Xi.

The country's top diplomat also took a swipe against critics of Duterte's foreign policy.

The president has been drawing flak over his declaration that China would continue to trawl within Philippine EEZ due to the friendship between the two countries.

Locsin, however, clarified that the Duterte administration has not surrendered anything to China.

"What have we done? Surrendered anything? No, but we enforce everything that is our right and under UNCLOS we insist on it. I protest its violation. Can we go further than that? That's a judgment call made by the president," Locsin said.

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