Sotto on PH-China fishing deal: ‘How can we act on something we don’t have?’
MANILA, Philippines — “How can we act on something we don’t have?”
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III posed this question on Wednesday after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio urged the upper chamber of Congress to “act now” and “assert its authority” on the verbal fishing pact between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to Carpio, the Senate “should play a role” in the “international agreement” entered into by Duterte with Xi that allows the Chinese to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“The Senate must assert its authority because under the Constitution the Senate must give its concurrence by a two-thirds vote to any treaty or international agreement entered into by the President,” Carpio explained in a televised interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday.
“The ball is on the court of the Senate. It has to act now to either ratify or repudiate that. It’s up to the Senate now,” he added.
But in a statement, Sotto said the Senate does not “practice motu propio ratification or repudiation on something not submitted to us.”
The President’s appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., had earlier said that the Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal could not be enforced.
“The verbal agreement cannot be enforced because it’s verbal, exactly as (Senator) Frank(lin) Drilon said that you need a document to prove an agreement. It’s just the way it is,” Locsin said in an interview last July 3.
The foreign affairs chief also said that allowing China to fish in the country’s EEZ is “not policy.”
Aside from Locsin, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also thinks Duterte’s fishing deal with Xi cannot be enforced.
Nograles said it was just an “agreement to agree” and was meant to keep the communication lines open between the Philippines and China over the West Philippines Sea dispute.
But the stance of the two Cabinet secretaries differ from that of Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman.
For Secretary Salvador Panelo, the Duterte-Xi unwritten fishing pact was “legally binding.”
“It’s legally binding… Alam mo, there are as many opinions as there are lawyers. It’s a free country. They interpret it that way, eh ‘di hayaan mo. Basta ako, kung ano ‘yung sinabi ni Presidente ‘yun na ‘yon,” Panelo previously told reporters at Malacañang. /je
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