President Rodrigo Duterte is not necessarily “granting” the Chinese access to fish in parts of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) that are part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this clarification after President Rodrigo Duterte earlier admitted that it will be difficult to stop China from allowing its fishermen to fish in Philippine territorial waters.
“Parang ito-tolerate mo lang (It’s as if we’re tolerating it), not necessarily grant,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“We will allow it kasi (because) we’re friends naman, eh di magbigayan muna tayo, parang ganun lang (then we should have a mutual tolerance),” he added.
According to Panelo, under the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on July 12, 2016, the Philippines could grant other states access to fish within Philippine EEZ.
Panelo, however, said he will further clarify with the President if tolerating Chinese access to the Philippine EEZ is a policy statement.
Despite the PCA ruling recognizing Philippine sovereign rights over the EEZ, China insisted on owning majority of the WPS or South China Sea.
On Monday night, Duterte said he thinks China would not agree to being prevented from fishing within the Philippine territorial waters.
“I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. And they are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation,” Duterte said in a media interview during the premier of the film “Kontradiksyon” at SM Megamall.
Earlier, the 22 Filipino fishermen whose boat was allegedly abandoned after being rammed by a Chinese fishing vessel off Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the WPS appealed to Duterte to prohibit China from fishing within the Philippine EEZ.
Open To All Options
Panelo, meanwhile, said the Duterte administration is open to all forms of investigation — separate, joint — in resolving what Duterte earlier described as a “little maritime incident”.
He, however, said a third party may no longer be necessary to resolve differences if the Philippine and Chinese authorities have similar findings.
Also on Monday night, Duterte explained that when he described the ramming and abandonment of a Filipino fishing boat as a little maritime incident, he meant that there was no confrontation or bloody violence between the two countries.
Duterte also bared that he already has “preliminary reports” from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Navy on the incident.
“But the official report has yet to be prepared and given to me for publication to the people,” Duterte said.
The President also said investigation conducted by Chinese authorities is “about to be completed” but was open to a joint investigation if China would agree.
“If they want another investigation, payag man ako (I will agree to it). Or they can always also investigate on their own and we can confront each other with our evidence here,” Duterte said.
Panelo said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has also assured him that as “best of friends” the two countries will be able to iron out their disagreements.
“Ambassador Zhao, in one of his text messages to me, said that if halimbawa nag-share yung 2 (for example, the two shared their findings) and there is any disagreement, there is nothing that best of friends will not agree on,” Panelo said.
Panelo also said China will ‘soon’ release the result of its investigation. (PNA)
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