How much will China fish under Duterte deal, Carpio asks

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

President Duterte allowed the Chinese to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. A “verbal agreement” with President Xi Jinping was made in 2016. Duterte disclosed it only in 2019. That was after a Chinese steel-hulled fisheries militia trawler rammed an anchored Filipino wooden boat in the EEZ.

Assuming Duterte’s deal is legal, former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio asks:

• How many Chinese vessels are allowed to fish in the West Philippine Sea, given that China has the world’s largest commercial fishing fleet of 200,000 ships?

• What tonnage are they allowed to catch?

• What months of the year are they allowed to fish?

• Up to when is the Duterte-Xi agreement?

The questions are about equity. Filipinos are required by law to register their commercial fishing craft and to report their catch. Their companies and fishing permits have fixed duration. They are restricted from certain areas in certain seasons for fish to spawn. So should foreigners.

The questions are about rights too. Filipinos must be told what their leader is doing with their patrimonial wealth. Transparency in public dealings is a constitutional rule.

Duterte has been silent on those details for five years now, Carpio notes. Silent as well about 240 Chinese maritime militia vessels presently poaching in Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands and Pagkakaisa (Union) Bank. The Chinese are also in Recto (Reed) Bank and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. They refuse to leave the Philippine EEZ because of Duterte’s “verbal agreement”, Carpio says.

Sixty meters long, the span of two basketball courts, each Chinese trawler can haul in 240,000 kilos of fish. Together the 240 intruders can pillage 57.6 million kilos in one expedition, like the first two weeks this April. That’s worth P4.4 billion, in the old 2018 valuation of South China Sea fish capture by the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Council.

Financed and equipped by the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese fisheries militia is in the EEZ year-round. Satellite-tracked, the contingent at Pagkakaisa trespassed in December 2020, the start of the calm-water amihan season. The ramming of GemVer-I at Recto in June 2019 was at the start of the habagat.

Filipino fishers do not venture out anymore. The Chinese militia and coastguard escorts water-cannon and machinegun them on sight. The abandonment at sea of the 26 GemVer crewmen was a bitter lesson. “An ordinary maritime accident,” Duterte called the aggression.

Of the “verbal agreement” with Xi, Duterte said weeks later in Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s TV show: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m the owner, and I’m just giving the fishing rights. Galit sila kung bakit ko daw pinapaisda.” Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said that, although verbal, the deal was “legally binding.”

Today China ignores Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin’s diplomatic protests against the Chinese incursions. It belittles Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s warning for them to leave.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea reserves an EEZ for the coastal country’s sole use. The Hague court rubbished in 2016 China’s baseless “historic claim” over the Philippine EEZ.

The Constitution reserves for Filipinos the right to use natural resources. The President must submit international treaties for Senate approval.

*      *      *

Duterte to Carpio: “Can UN order China to surrender sea claims? Carpio’s answer: “Yes, of course.”

“(1) In 1987 the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution ordering the US to comply with an International Court of Justice ruling favoring Nicaragua. Only Israel voted for the US. After several years the US eventually complied, to the satisfaction of Nicaragua. The US suffered a huge reputational cost and decided to cut a deal with Nicaragua.

“(2) In 2019 the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution ordering UK to return the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius pursuant to an opinion of the International Court of Justice. Only five countries voted for the UK. So far the UK has not complied. However, its reputation as a law-abiding country is taking a beating.

“Getting a UN resolution in your country’s favor is already a huge victory because that means the world community is behind your country. That strengthens enormously your country’s position and weakens greatly your adversary’s position. This is how a country defends its national interest. A country cannot just fold and give up just because the other side is stubborn. That is a childish mentality.”

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity”. Simply subscribe to my newsletter at: https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

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