Palace: No Duterte-Xi fishing pact; Remains a Sino “ swarm ”
Malacañang on Friday denied the existence of a “verbal fishing agreement” between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping just days after Manila filed two more diplomatic protests against the continued presence of Chinese ships in the west from the Philippine Sea.
The denial also comes after former Senior Deputy Supreme Court Judge Antonio Carpio pointed to a statement by Duterte himself that he had a “verbal agreement” with Xi in 2016 to allow the Chinese to fish in the Philippine waters.
“There is no truth in speculation of an alleged ‘verbal fishing agreement’ between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jin Ping, nor that Chinese vessels have been encouraged to stay in the western part of the country. Philippine Sea despite diplomatic protests and strong statements from the Philippine government. officials, ”President spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
“It is without merit and it is just conjecture,” he said, adding that such an agreement could only be reached through a treaty, which “must be in writing”.
“No such treaty or agreement exists between the Philippines and China,” Roque said.
Duterte would not allow any state to engage in “commercial” fishing in the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but would allow “subsistence” fishing, he added.
In a statement released on Friday, the Foreign Office (DFA) said it had lodged two diplomatic protests with Beijing over the refusal of many Chinese ships to leave the western Philippine Sea.
It was the latest in a series of formal Manila protests since early March, when more than 200 Chinese Maritime Militia ships invaded Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, which lies well within the country’s EEZ in the western Philippine Sea.
“The continued and threatening presence of Chinese ships creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard for China’s commitments to promote peace and stability in the region,” the DFA said.
“The presence of these vessels flagrantly violates the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines.”
According to the DFA, the two diplomatic notes were filed Wednesday “to protest against the continued deployment, persistent presence and activities of Chinese ships in Philippine maritime areas.”
The notes also reminded China that Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, Pag-asa Islands, Parola, Kota Islands, Chigua and Burgos Reefs were all ‘an integral part of the Philippines’, did he declare.
The DFA insisted that China abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 “final and binding” arbitration award that recognized the Philippines EEZ.
The ruling invalidated China’s comprehensive claims over virtually the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Beijing ignored the decision.
In his Inquirer column on Thursday, Carpio pointed to the president’s own admission that he had a “verbal agreement” in 2016 with the Chinese leader, which Duterte first revealed after the shelling by a ship of Chinese steel hull fishing from the Filipino fisherman. Gem-Ver 1 ship in June 2019.
Carpio said this was the “most sinister reason Chinese fishing vessels are wandering en masse” in the West Philippine Sea.
“The president must be frank about the terms of his ‘verbal agreement’ with the Chinese,” wrote the former Supreme Court judge, who headed the Philippine legal panel that won the arbitration case.
“The Chinese, using huge steel-hulled trawlers, catch fish in the Philippine EEZ at the expense of the Filipino fishermen who only use wooden fishing boats with outriggers. Filipino fishermen complain about the drastic drop in fish catches in the WPS (West Philippine Sea). The Philippines is now importing “galunggong” from China, the same fish that Chinese fishermen collect in the WPS, “he said.
On June 24, 2019, Duterte opened up about his deal with Xi to explain why he couldn’t stop the Chinese from fishing in the western Philippine Sea.
He said the deal allowed Filipinos to fish again at Panatag Shoal, which China blocked after taking control in 2012.
In a speech in Malacañang three days later, Duterte again cited the agreement.
160 ships remain
“They asked, ‘Will you allow the Chinese to fish?’ I said, “Of course. This is what we discussed before, this is what we are talking about. And that is why we are allowed to fish again, ”he said.
“It was a mutual agreement. Let us give in to each other. You fish there, I fish here, ”added Duterte.
Later, then-presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who is also the president’s legal adviser, explained that the verbal agreement between Duterte and the Chinese leader was legally binding even though it was not in writing. .
“Even in law, even verbal, it is still valid and binding, as long as there is mutual consent between the two parties. That’s why it’s a deal, ”Panelo said.
The DFA statement said 160 Chinese ships were still illegally in Philippine waters, particularly at Kalayaan Island Group and Panatag as of April 20.
The US-based think tank, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti), said the Chinese ships had been in Julian Felipe “since at least February 2020”.
He cited satellite images from Planet Labs which showed “a significant number” of Chinese ships on the reef, much earlier than what had been reported by the US research firm Simularity, which had recorded their presence on the reef in November. Last year.
According to Amti, the Chinese ships “never really disappeared”, but only bounced between Julian Felipe and other parts of the Pagkakaisa (Union) banks and reefs, already occupied by China.
He said some of the Chinese ships anchored at Julian Felipe were operating from the same base as the boat that crashed and sank the Gem-Ver 1.
Amti has identified at least 14 vessels on the reef from photos and videos taken by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Of the six Chinese ships that were seen moored side by side at Julian Felipe Reef during the PCG’s March 7 patrols, five were identified by Amti – Yuemaobinyu 42881, 42882, 42883, 42885 and 42886. It is Yuemaobinyu 42212 who hit Gem- Ver 1.
—WITH THE REPORTS OF MARLON RAMOS AND DEXTER CABALZA INQ
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