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Duterte-Xi fishing agreement not on paper, Panelo says


Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Monday there was no written agreement between the Philippines and China as regards fishing in the West Philippine Sea.

“Palagay ko walang pinirmahan. Parang ano lang iyon eh, parang nag-usap lang sila. Alam mo kung minsan, ang mga heads of state, may mga word of honor iyong mga iyon, eh,” Panelo said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

"Hindi na kailangan," he added.

He was referring President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that the Chinese were allowed to fish in Recto Bank as a result of an agreement between him and President Xi Jinping in 2016.

“Dati-rati ‘di ba, hindi tayo pinapayagan sa Scarborough. They were being shooed away. Nagkakaroon ng mga prakaso. Pero after that, wala na,” Panelo said.

Asked if the deal between two leaders would be legally binding, Panelo replied: “Bakit naman hindi? Ano namang masama doon?”

He said cited Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution which states: “The prime duty of a government is to protect and to serve the people.”

“The President is doing that. Nakikita niya na kung ipu-pursue mo iyong gusto mo aggressively at sinabihan ka na nga, ‘Baka magkaroon tayo ng problema diyan,’ oh di ina-avoid na niya, dinadala niya sa, ‘Oh di mag-usap tayo.’ Kasi sabi ni President Xi noon, and I was there, he said, ‘Let’s talk about our trade relations, people-to-people, iyong puwede nating pagkasunduan at pagtulungan. Saka na natin iyan, iyang medyo masigalot na usaping iyan.’ Wala namang masama doon,” he said.

Asked how the people could scrutinize the deal without a document, the presidential spokesperson said Duterte already mentioned the details of the deal and its specifics.

“Hindi ba sinasabi na exactly ni Presidente kung anong usapan nila. He already said that. Dinetalye na nga kung anong sinabi ni President Xi, anong sinabi niya, ano ang response at ano ang naging epekto,” he said.

“Specific na nga siya ‘di ba. Sabi niya, ‘Oh ano, mag-fish kayo diyan, dito naman kami. Walang pakialaman,’ hindi ba,” he added.

On the question of Bayan Muna why the agreement was revealed just recently, Panelo said maybe they are only asking about it only now. He added they have been mentioning it several times in the past.

“Alam mo, matagal nang sinasabi namin iyan. Kahit ako, sinasabi ko na iyan. Nagkakaroon ng usapan kaya nga okay na doon sa Scarborough eh. Hindi ba? Kahit si Secretary Alan Cayetano noong siya pa ang secretary, sinasabi niya na iyon na nagkaroong ng usapan,” Panelo said.

“Kasi you know, after that conversation, I think si Secretary Cayetano, kausap na niya iyong … ‘Ano ba ang gagawin natin dito?’ He reported to that eh; and I also mentioned that several times,” he added.

He said the agreement does not mean the Philippines will no longer assert its rights over the area.

“Iyan ang modus vivendi. Kumbaga, magbigayan muna tayo. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na we will not invoke that pagdating ng panahon,” Panelo said. —NB, GMA News