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Carpio: Duterte’s 2016 'deal' with China emboldened Chinese vessels to stay put in West Philippine Sea

The Chinese vessels refusing to leave the West Philippine Sea are holding on to a verbal agreement that President Rodrigo Duterte had made with Chinese President Xi Jinping way back in 2016 allowing China to fish within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A report by Chino Gaston on “24 Oras” said this was according to retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who wrote about the Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“The strong diplomatic protests filed by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., as well as the strong warnings issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, are not being taken seriously by the Chinese because they know they have a fishing agreement with President Duterte,” Carpio said.

But Carpio argued that the President is not allowed to give away the exclusive right of Filipinos to fish in the country’s EEZ “unless allowed in a treaty ratified by the Senate.”

In 2019, Duterte had already clarified he was not giving away the Philippines' fishing rights to China. "Sabi nila, ‘Bakit mo pinayagan ang China?’ Sabi ko, ‘As far as I'm concerned, I'm the owner, and I'm just giving the fishing rights,’" the President said at the time.

But if China were indeed being permitted within the EEZ, Caprio said the Philippines should at least be informed when and how much Chinese vessels are allowed to fish in its waters.

“The public also has the right to know how many Chinese fishing vessels are allowed to fish in the WPS, considering that China has the largest fishing fleet in the world,” Carpio said.

2016 verbal deal

Duterte earlier said that the Chinese had been allowed to fish in Recto Bank as a result of a verbal agreement between him and President Xi Jinping in 2016.

In his 2019 State of the Nation Address, Duterte elaborated on this verbal deal by citing the 2016 ruling of the arbitral tribunal that stated that the Philippines may enter into fishing agreements with other countries.

Gaston's report said the military has expressed doubts that the numerous Chinese fishing vessels found in the Philippine EEZ were only there to fish and not to occupy the territory.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines have also deployed additional boats to watch out for the fishermen and care for the natural resources in the area. -MDM, GMA News