Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio speaks at a forum on the third anniversary of the Philippines' arbitral victory on the South China Sea.
Carpio asks Duterte: Don't mention China fishing deal in 4th SONA
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - July 12, 2019 - 4:38pm

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio advised President Rodrigo Duterte not to mention his supposed fishing deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the West Philippine Sea in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Duterte earlier said he will "educate" his critics about his position on the country's exclusive economic zone during his fourth SONA on July 22.

According to Duterte, he and his Chinese counterpart agreed that the Chinese will no longer block Filipino fishermen from accessing Scarborough or Panatag Shoal. In turn, Chinese fishermen will be allowed to fish in Reed or Recto Bank.

The two leaders, however, did not sign any document on this deal as it was only a "verbal agreement."

Carpio, one of the men behind the Philippines' arbitration against China, said Manila can still get out of the supposed fishing deal as it is still a verbal agreement.

"We can still get out of that but if the president will mention it in the SONA, confirm it, it becomes binding on us," Carpio told reporters on the sidelines of a forum on the third anniversary of the Philippines' arbitral victory on the West Philippine Sea.

According to the SC justice, the Philippines will have to honor the agreement if Duterte makes this declaration on his SONA, where he will address the nation.

While Malacañang insisted that the verbal agreement was legally binding, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said this was not government policy as there was no document signed about it.

"It was clarified by Secretary Locsin that's not government policy so there is a doubt... We have to tell him (Duterte) don't say that," Carpio said.

In his speech at the forum, Carpio reiterated that allowing the Chinese to fish within Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is unconstitutional.

Citing the 1987 Constitution, the SC magistrate stressed that the "use and enjoyment" of the 200-nautical mile maritime area if exclusively for Filipinos.

Carpio stressed that a state does not have to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to be entitled to this exclusivity under international law.

"The Philippines must reject this verbal agreement," Carpio said, warning that the Chinese fishing fleet can rapidly deplete fish stock in the entire West Philippine Sea.

"We cannot allow this lopsided agreement, grossly and manifestly disadvantages to the Filipino people, to govern fishing in the Reed Bank, and if the other news reports are correct, even in the entire West Philippine Sea, an area larger than the total land area of the Philippines," he said.

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