Duterte ‘tolerating’ Chinese fishing in PH’s EEZ draws flak

Marje Pelayo

MANILA, Philippines – Hoping to get the government to side with them, the 22 fishermen who were abandoned at sea by Chinese crewmen in the Recto Bank maritime incident have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to bar Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area which is beyond, and is adjacent to, a given country’s territorial seas. It extends no more than 200 nautical miles out from a country’s own coastlines.

In case of the Philippines, any marine resource available within a country’s EEZ is for the exclusive use and benefit of the Philippine government and the Filipino people.

The controversial Recto or Reed Bank is within the Philippine’s EEZ.

It is rich in marine resources that is why the so called “Recto 22” wants the government to insist the Philippine’s exclusive rights in the area.

However, President Duterte said he will not bar the Chinese from fishing in Recto Bank “for friendship’s sake” when asked if he would prevent the Chinese from doing so.

“I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. And they are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation,” the President told reporters on June 26.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed the President’s statement.

“Kasi friends nga daw. Kung friends, ‘di magbibigayan kayo, (Because we’re friends. Friends share with each other), Panelo said.

But Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippine’s EEZ because “it will violate the Constitution.”

Carpio explained: “The Constitution mandates, The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has the specific task to be “the protector of the people” as mandated by the Constitution and to “secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory.”

“The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the President, who has the constitutional duty to direct the Armed Forces is the President, who has the constitutional duty to direct the Armed Forces to protect the nation’s marine wealth in its Exclusive Economic Zone,” Carpio explained further.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, pointed out in his tweet that the word ‘friend’ is not stated in the Constitution criticizing the President’s remarks allowing the Chinese to enjoy resources in the country’ archipelagic waters.

Professor Jay Batongbacal, for his part, said the President’s stance on the issue is tantamount to ‘renouncing’ the Philippine’s victory against China granted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 which ruled in favor of the Philippines as having the sovereign rights over the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is how the Philippines surrenders and renounces it victory in the Philippine v. China arbitration,” the Maritime Law Expert concluded. – With details from Rosalie Coz

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