MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday, June 27, echoed President Rodrigo Duterte's remark that Chinese fishermen can fish in the West Philippine Sea.
Sotto said that the President is being "diplomatic and stern" at the same time on the Recto Bank incident. The oil-rich reef is in Philippine waters, where only Filipinos can fish.
"It’s very difficult to say that there is an exclusivity if it is underwater. The fish could be coming from China. And the fish from the Philippines could be going to China," Sotto told ANC. He later said it was a tongue-in-cheek statement.
Sotto he said that he welcomed other nations from fishing in Philippine waters as long as they "allow" Filipino fishermen to fish in their zones too.
"As long as we are allowed to fish also in their zones then I don’t see anything wrong. They would treat us as friends likewise," Sotto said.
He said China should not be singled out for fishing at the West Philippine Sea, as Vietnamese fishermen and Indonesian companies also "ply the route."
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday, June 25, refuted the Duterte administration that China can't fish in the Philippines citing its unconstitutionality.
But Sotto invited those who believed that the President violated the Constitution to file an impeachment case against him.
"Then it would be a very good test case…and see if they're right," he said.
Sotto, who said that he was being neutral on the issue, also supported the planned joint investigation on the ramming, sinking, and abandoning of distressed fishermen of F/B Gem-Ver in Recto Bank on June 9 by Chinese ship Yuemaobinyu 42212.
"All the more we need a joint investigation. Because we cannot allow just an investigation from China and an investigation just from the Philippines. A joint investigation will give us a better perspective," he said.
Sotto also dismissed claims of Yuemaobinyu 42212 being a militia vessel as "pure speculation."
"[It] is next to impossible because they would not be in that area around that time. Did you see the satellite picture? There are no reports of any militia vessel there. This should probably come from those against China," he said.
The Senate President earlier claimed that the Chinese ship did not sink Gem-Ver citing an opinion of a "Coast Guard expert." – Rappler.com