Philippine Coast Guard unaware of Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Philippine Coast Guard commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino said he is not aware of the supposed verbal agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping which allows Chinese fishermen to fish within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Wala kaming alam na agreement. Di naman kami part ng mga diplomatic [aspect],” he told reporters Wednesday.
“We became aware through these media [reports],” he added.
Last week, Duterte said he could not stop the Chinese from fishing in the West Philippine Sea and those included in the Philippines’ EEZ because of a previous agreement with Xi.
This agreement supposedly also allowed Filipino fishermen to return to fish at Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, which China occupied after a standoff with the Philippines in 2012.
Lawmakers and law experts have criticized the verbal agreement as a violation of the Constitution, which called for the state to protect its territory and reserves the use of its resources for Filipinos.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the implementation of this exclusivity clause would be “courting danger.”
But the agreement appeared not to be part of the PCG’s policy as Hermogino said they continue to perform their mandate.
“We do our normal mandate. We conduct fisheries protection but we focus more on Filipino fishermen to protect them on their safety. We always prioritize Filipino fishermen when we conduct patrols,” he said.
He added that they warn foreign vessels within the Philippines’ EEZ and drive them away when they spot them during their patrols.
“Bawal naman talaga silang mangisda. In due consideration of these negotiations and dialogues, what we are doing is we shoo away these vessels…we try to avoid conflict. So we always try to settle things through a coast guard diplomacy,” Hermogino said. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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