Duterte broke his promise not to bargain on West Philippine Sea — Del Rosario, Morales
In this July 12, 2019 photo, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario attend a forum on the third anniversary of the Philippines' arbitral victory against China.
Stratbase ADR Institute

Duterte broke his promise not to bargain on West Philippine Sea — Del Rosario, Morales

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 24, 2019 - 10:22am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has broken his promise that his government will not bargain the country's claim over the West Philippine Sea, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said.

Prior to his first visit to China in October 2016, Duterte said he will stick to the Philippines' claim.

"I will be very careful not to bargain anything for after all I cannot give what is not mine and which I am not empowered to do by any sketch of imagination," Duterte said in 2016.

READ: Duterte won't bargain Philippine territory with China

Del Rosario and Morales, who filed a communication before the International Criminal Court against Chinese President Xi Jinping, pointed out that the president broke this promise in claiming China's threat of war.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address last Monday, Duterte reiterated Xi's threat that there would be "trouble" if the Philippines will dig for oil in the West Philippine Sea.

While the president acknowledged the Philippines' arbitral victory against China in his SONA, he also declared that Beijing had exacted fishing rights through threats of war during his meeting with Xi in 2016.

"A crucial question is: why was this agreement secret and hidden from the Filipino people for nearly three years?" Del Rosario and Morales said in a joint statement.

Del Rosario and Morales reiterated that Duterte's fishing deal with his Chinese counterpart is illegal, null and void as it violates the Constitution.

"No Presidential agreement with China or any other country can override the explicit constitutional mandate that the 'use and enjoyment' of our EEZ is 'reserved... exclusively to Filipino citizens,'" the statement read.

Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treatis, "A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the treat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Carter of the United Nations."

This agreement does not bind the Filipino people because Beijing used the threat of war. Both the Philippines and China are parties to the Vienna Convention.

The two former government officials also stressed that no public official has the authority to grant foreigners fishing rights in Philippine exclusive economic zone unless the Constitution is amended.

In his SONA, Duterte claimed that he was only invoking traditional fishing rights in allowing the Chinese to fish in Philippine waters as ruled upon by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)-backed tribunal.

Del Rosario and Morales clarified that the traditional fishing rights awarded by the international tribunal to Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese and others are limited to the 12-nautical mile territorial sea around Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

This does not include the entire Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

The traditional fishing rights are also only for small boats like those used by Filipino fishermen and not for China's large fishing fleet using steel-hulled trawlers.

The former top diplomat and former ombudsman also clarified that only Filipinos are entitled to fish in Philippine EEZ as the arbitral ruling had extinguished traditional fishing rights on the EEZ.

Duterte also mentioned in his SONA that the Philippines may enter into fishing agreements with other states provided that it is in accordance with the UNCLOS.

The UNCLOS award, however, ruled that the a country had no obligation to do so, the two former government officials said.

"In the case of the Philippines, it is prohibited to give part of the EEZ to the Chinese because the Philippine Constitution specifically reserves the use and enjoyment of its EEZ exclusively to Filipinos," they said.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meanwhile, warned that the fish stock in the West Philippine Sea will be depleted if the Chinese will be allowed to fish in the area.

"They can scoop the fish there in less than a year and if the fish will be gone," Carpio said in a television interview.

Carpio also called on the Senate to act on the fishing deal with China, given that the verbal agreement is considered an international treaty.

Under the Constitution, all existing treaties or international agreements need concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Senate.

"So now the ball is in the court of the Senate. It has to act now to either ratify or repudiate that it's up to the Senate now," Carpio said.

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