Two opposition senators on Tuesday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that China will continue to fish in waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone on the premise that the Philippines and China are friends.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the statement is of doubtful legality and constitutionality.
“The Chinese can only fish and exploit our marine resources in our exclusive economic zone under a binding and legal agreement between both nations that adheres to our constitutional restrictions on foreigners and their utilization of our natural resources,” he said in a text message to GMA News Online.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said while Filipinos recognize and celebrate long ties with China, this is no reason for Duterte to surrender the country’s sovereign rights and to disregard the Constitution and laws amid China’s brazen incursions in the territory.
“It is an area where we have exclusive and special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources and other economic activities. Hindi maaaring makipag-friend zone si Pangulo sa ating exclusive economic zone,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Just when you thought President Duterte’s foreign policy track couldn’t get any more dysfunctional and absurd, the President finds a new way to toe Beijing’s line and enable China’s misdeeds in the West Philippine Sea,” she added.
After the President dismissed the pain of the 22 Mindoro fishermen by calling the ramming of their boat as a minor incident, he insult to injury by allowing China’s fishermen to fish in the Philippine waters, Hontiveros alleged.
“He has apparently forgotten that it was Chinese fishermen who left 22 Filipinos at the mercy of the sea,” she said.
The senator also reminded Duterte of his duties to the nation.
“The President swore an oath to execute the country’s laws; he cannot allow any country to disregard and violate the country’s maritime and fishing laws: friends or not, our loyalty as government officials must ultimately lie with the interests of the sovereign Filipino nation and its Constitution and laws,” she said. —VDS, GMA News