MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s verbal fishing agreement back in 2016 is ‘legally binding and enforceable,’ according to Malacañang Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that the agreement is a verbal understanding between the two leaders during the 2016 bilateral agreement.
Duterte mentioned on Monday last week that the said deal allows Chinese to fish in Philippine waters adding that it (deal) is the reason why he could not stop Chinese from fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
“I think there was no signing involved. They only talked. You know, heads of state have their word of honor. There was no need for that,” Panelo said.
Access to Scarborough Shoal
Panelo further described it as an exchange deal allowing Filipinos to fish again at the controversial Panatag or Scarborough Shoal after getting seized from the Philippines in 2012.
“Remember we weren’t allowed in Scarborough (Shoal) before. They were being shooed away. But after that (the agreement), things were OK,” he said.
Not a National Policy
Asked about the legality of the deal, Panelo insisted that it is legally binding following the comments of at least two cabinet officials that the agreement is not a national policy.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. believed that the agreement is ‘pointless’ and emphasized that it is not enforceable while Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also said that it is just ‘an agreement to agree’ to initiate talks about the possible agreement in the West Philippine Sea.
Despite this, Panelo remains firm and said: “Even in law, even it’s verbal, it’s still valid and binding, as long as there is mutual consent between the two parties. That’s why it’s an agreement.”
The President became furious upon hearing the comments about the deal and threatened to arrest anyone who would file a complaint for an impeachment.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde on Monday said that he would obey the presidential order for arrests, as long as there are investigators. Albayalde also added that since filing for impeachment is not a crime, other offenses could be cited such as libel and sedition.
Vice President’s Appeal
Vice President Leni Robredo also called for transparency on the deal with Xi.
Speaking on her radio program on Sunday, she said: “[W]e do not know the terms of [the] agreement. If this is… a treaty, then it has to be approved by Senate.”
Robredo also stressed that the government must protect the Philippine waters and guarantee that only Filipinos would benefit from the country’s seas.
Sources: ABS-CBN News