Senators differ on Duterte’s fishing deal with China
MANILA, Philippines— Should President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishers to fish in Philippine waters, form part of the country’s foreign policy?
Some senators wonder as they demand that the agreement be made public or transmitted formally to Congress for discussion.
“Itong verbal agreement between the President should be transmitted formally to the Congress and the Senate to make it part of our discussions in our foreign policy,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian told reporters on Tuesday.
He said Congress should be informed formally if the agreement was part of the country’s foreign policy or just past of its strategy in dealing with China
“Because Congress is also part of the foreign policy discussions and there are many treaties and polices that Congress must understand,” the senator said in a mix of Filipino and English
It is also important, he said, to find out how this agreement would be enforced.
“I think we can discuss this more thoroughly and understand it when the 18th Congress opens,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs.
Gatchalian believes that the deal between the two leaders in 2016 should be put into writing with details on how it would be enforced.
“If this becomes a form of a treaty, then it needs congressional concurrence but kung ito ay concepts ang pinag uusapan then hindi kelangan ng congressional approval on this one,” Gatchalian said.
“Again, these are statements na walang body and we need to understand that.”
For her part, opposition Senator Leila de Lima dared the Duterte administration to make public the President’s “secret deal” with China.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, pointed out that “no executive agreement or even international treaty can supersede the Philippine Constitution because the power to enter into executive agreements and international treaties is derived from it.”
“Duterte’s admission that he struck a deal with China in 2016 allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) is a shocking revelation,” she said in a separate statement.
“This means that Duterte secretly entered into a bilateral fisheries agreement that should properly have been the subject of an international treaty because it lays down new policy not established by legislation,” the senator added.
But because the agreement in 2016 was verbal, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said it does not need a Senate approval anymore.
“Nah! it does not fall into a formal agreement,” Sotto said in a text message.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, believes that the verbal agreement should not form part of the country’s national policy.
“A verbal agreement between President Duterte and President Xi is what it is – a verbal agreement,” Lacson said in a separate statement.
“Is that verbal agreement already part of our national policy? Is it being carried out? It is my humble view that it is not. Why? There is no showing that the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Department of National Defense are implementing that so-called verbal agreement.”
In fact, he said, the two frontline agencies have expressed different views on the issue.
“Maybe our problem is, we have a spokesman who talks more than he should. He telegraphs every move and every plan that the executive has on issues that need a little diligence and study,” Lacson said, apparently referring to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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