President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said that the Philippines cannot assert sovereignty over its exclusive economic zone and drive away Chinese fishermen as he claimed that no country in the world has that right.
"Tayo dinemanda natin ang China during panahon ni Aquino which was right. Nanalo tayo, sabi ng arbitral court sa Pilipinas 'yan," Duterte said during the 122nd anniversary celebration of the Presidential Security Group in Malacañang.
"Hindi binigay sa atin 'yung sovereignty. Ang sovereignty is only 12 miles. Ang economic zone wala tayong sovereignty," he added.
The President was referring to the international tribunal ruling in 2016 which invalidated China's claims in the South China Sea.
"No country in the world has a sovereignty sa kaniyang economic zone. It is not a question of sovereignty. Ang recognized lang 'yung 12 [miles]," he added.
Duterte said that the governments of the Philippines and China have mutually agreed to allow fishermen from both countries to trawl in the disputed waters.
"We cannot drive them away because they have insisted na kanila," he said.
Further, Duterte said that the fruits of strengthening diplomatic ties with China and temporarily setting aside the issue on territorial dispute have manifested in the projects in the country supported by the Chinese government under his administration.
Duterte's remarks on sovereignty runs counter to the provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Section 2 of Article XII on National Economy and Patrimony states 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."
The 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines against China over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea recognized the country's sovereign rights over the EEZ.
This right is based on the so-called Constitution for the Oceans, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Under UNCLOS, a coastal state has the exclusive right to fish within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area 200 nautical miles from the coastal state's baselines or edges.
Recto Bank, for example, was found to be part of the Philippines' 200-nautical mile EEZ.
According to Article 56 of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, this means the Philippines has exclusive rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage the natural resources in the area. This includes fish, oil, and natural gas.
On Tuesday, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that allowing Chinese fishermen to trawl in the country's EEZ is unconstitutional.
Duterte slammed Carpio and the opposition for supposedly trying to make him go to trouble.
"Alam mo, gusto talaga nila ng gulo... Sabi nila 'You have to ban China. Iprohibit mo.' Kung iprohibit ko, how do I enforce my desire? Takot nga ang Amerika ayaw nga mag-confront tapos ako pa ang ipusta nila. Gusto talaga nila mapasubo ako," he said.
Duterte added that he is not willing to sacrifice the lives of the state security forces for a war where they will helplessly die. —LDF, GMA News