MANILA, Philippines – Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario questioned the Duterte government on Wednesday, June 26, for saying the Philippines "will allow" China to fish in the West Philippine Sea.
"When will we stop giving our northern neighbor primacy over our own people?" Del Rosario said in a statement Wednesday.
This comes after another advocate of the West Philippine Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, also refuted the Duterte government over its recent statement.
Carpio said it is unconstitutional to allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a 200-nautical-mile region where the country has exclusive rights to fish and use marine resources.
Malacañang, interpreting President Rodrigo Duterte, earlier said the Philippines "will allow" China to fish in the West Philippine Sea "because we're friends."
Reacting to this, Del Rosario on Wednesday posed the following questions to the Duterte government:
The West Philippine Sea issue heated up again after a Filipino fishing boat was sunk by a Chinese ship in Recto Bank (Reed Bank), a potentially oil-rich region in the country's waters. (READ: Duterte vs fishermen: Is the Philippines lawyering for China?)
'Because we're friends'
Following up on this issue, a reporter asked Duterte on Monday, June 24: "Will you prevent China from fishing within our EEZ? Iyong pwede po bang…kasi 'yun 'yung request ng mga fishermen?" (Will you prevent China from fishing within our EEZ? Can it be...because that's the request of the fishermen?)
Duterte replied: "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."
On Tuesday, June 25, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo interpreted Duterte's words: "He said they will not allow it, but as far as they're concerned, they have historical right to that. Number two, we will allow it kasi we're friends naman, 'di magbigayan muna tayo – parang ganoon ang punto ni Presidente (because we're friends, so let's give way to each other – that seems to be the President's point)."
Carpio however stressed that the Philippines "has the exclusive sovereign right to exploit all the fish, oil, gas, and other mineral resources in its exclusive economic zone."
"This sovereign right belongs to the Filipino people, and no government official can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent," the justice said. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.