Duterte-Xi fishing deal ‘cannot be enforced’ – Locsin

Paterno Esmaquel II
Duterte-Xi fishing deal ‘cannot be enforced’ – Locsin
'It's not policy,' says Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the verbal agreement is legally binding

MANILA, Philippines – Despite Malacañang asserting it is binding, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr said the verbal fishing agreement between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping “cannot be enforced” and is not policy.

“The verbal agreement cannot be enforced. It cannot be enforced on us, because it’s verbal,” Locsin said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday morning, July 3.

He cited Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, his former boss in the law firm ACCRA, who said it is hard to pin down Duterte for this fishing deal because it has no written document. 

“Exactly as Frank Drilon said, my boss in ACCRA, you need a document to prove an agreement, which is the way it is,” Locsin said.

“It’s not policy,” the foreign secretary added.

He said Duterte could have made the verbal agreement because he “may have been made to believe that we have a surplus” of fish in the West Philippine Sea, as “there is such a thing as sharing beyond allowable catch.”

Locsin made these remarks after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the deal was legally binding even if it was verbal, because it sought “to serve and to protect the Filipino people.”

Panelo: Verbal agreement ‘binding’

Panelo said when asked on Monday, July 1, if the verbal agreement between Duterte and Xi was legally binding: “Bakit naman hindi? Ano namang masama doon?” (Why not? What’s wrong with that?)

He further explained, “Alam mo, kahit sa batas, kahit na verbal eh valid and binding iyon basta mayroong mutual consent ang dalawang partido. Kaya nga agreement eh.” (You know, when it comes to the law, it is valid and binding even if verbal, as long as it has the mutual consent of the two parties. That’s why it’s an agreement.)

Duterte revealed on June 26 that he cannot “prohibit” or “drive away” Chinese fishermen from the West Philippine Sea because of a supposed agreement between him and Xi to allow both their peoples to fish in these waters. 

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio refuted the Duterte government, however, and said it cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea because this is unconstitutional. 

Duterte’s statements come as he dismisses the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The Recto Bank incident is the most heated issue involving the West Philippine Sea since the Scarborough Shoal standoff in April 2012. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.