Philippines to exercise sovereign rights over EEZ, Palace official says
The Philippines will exercise sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone and to enforce the law against those who will violate it, a Palace official said on Wednesday.
This as Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles considered the "verbal agreement" about fishing in the disputed South China Sea between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2016 as "an agreement to come up with an agreement, an agreement to open the lines of communication."
Without the written agreement, including the terms of reference, Nograles said, "then it is just an agreement to become good friends."
Nograles' clarification came amid conflicting statements among some members of the Cabinet on whether the Duterte administration has allowed Chinese to fish within the Philippine EEZ, particularly in the Recto Bank area, which is also being claimed by China.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in previous press briefings, said that Chinese could fish within the EEZ of the Philippines as part of Duterte and Xi's "mutual agreement."
But in an interview by ANC on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines is not allowing Chinese to fish within the EEZ of the Philippines, describing the verbal agreement between Duterte and Xi as "pointless" since it was not translated into writing.
Nograles echoed Locsin's stance.
"The policy remains the same...it is the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and therefore we will exercise our exclusive sovereign rights over it and we will continue to guard it and do what is written in our law and Constitution. We will continue to safeguard it. We will continue to protect it, continue to do what we are supposed to do in terms of its exploration, exploitation and its extraction and its protection," he explained.
He said the government would enforce its laws within its EEZ specifically based on its Fisheries Code.
"It is now the Philippine Coast Guard which will enforce whatever is written in our laws. That is our mandate. And that is what they must do because it is their duty," said Nograles, also a former Davao City congressman. Celerina Monte/DMS