Palace: Giving China fishing rights asserts our ownership of West PH Sea
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte giving China fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea is an assertion of the Philippines’ ownership of the disputed territorial waters, Malacañang said Thursday.
“He was right there,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing referring to Duterte. “Because if you claim to be the owner and you feel you are the owner, it is the owner who give the right to someone who seek your permission to fish.”
In an interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy on Tuesday, Duterte defended his move to allow Chinese fishermen to trawl in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m the owner, and I’m just giving the fishing rights,” he said.
The President, who has fostered warm ties with China since he assumed office in June 30, 2016, has received sharp rebuke for allowing Chinese fishermen in Manila’s EEZ, saying it was tantamount to giving up Philippine sovereignty.
Various groups and maritime law experts have urged Duterte to enforce Art XII. Section of the 1987 Constitution, which mandated that “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
But Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the President has not renege on his Constitutional mandate to protect the Filipinos.
Duterte has cited Article II Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfilment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
Duterte has revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned of trouble if the Philippines continue to press its claims in the South China Sea.
“We said that that provision of the Constitution is subordinate to the earlier provision of the Constitution directing him to serve and to protect the Filipino people,” Panelo said, saying Article II prevails over Article XII of the Constitution. /jpv
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