China will continue to fish even in parts of the South China Sea which fall under the Philippines exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte indicated on Monday.
"Why? Because we’re friends,” Duterte told reporters in Mandaluyong City.
The 22 Filipino fishermen who were left at sea for hours after their boat was rammed by a Chinese trawler near Recto Bank in the South China Sea on June 9 earlier urged Duterte to declare the area an exclusive fishing ground for Filipinos.
“I don’t think China would do that," Duterte said when asked if the Philippines should prevent China from fishing in those waters.
The fishers also sought help in securing the area which was well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ.
Duterte has refrained from publicly criticizing Beijing over the boat ramming incident even as he questioned the latter’s expansive claims to the resource-rich sea.
He accepted China’s offer for a joint investigation on the incident and said the allision should not result in an armed conflict between China and the Philippines.
Since assuming office in 2016, Duterte took steps to mend ties with China, marred by territorial spats in the South China Sea, in order to tap the Asian superpower's deep pockets for much needed investment in infrastructure and cement trade deals. —NB, GMA News