Carpio: Senate must ‘act now, assert authority’ on Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate should “act now” and “assert its authority” on the verbal fishing pact that President Rodrigo Duterte forged with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio offered this idea as he believed that Senate “should play a role” in the “international agreement” entered into by Duterte with Xi that consents Chinese fishing in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Congress should play a role, I mean the Senate, because when the President said that he has a verbal agreement with President Xi allowing the Chinese to fish in our exclusive economic zone…that’s an international agreement,” Carpio explained Tuesday during an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“That has to be ratified by the Senate before it can be implemented. What’s happening now [is] it’s being implemented without the approval of the Senate. So, the Senate must assert its authority because under the Constitution the Senate must give its concurrence by a two-thirds vote to any treaty or international agreement entered into by the President,” he further explained.
In June, Duterte bared a verbal agreement he forged with Xi to allow China to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ after Beijing granted Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough Shoal.
“So now, the ball is on the court of the Senate. It has to act now to either ratify or repudiate that. It’s up to the Senate now,” Carpio said.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said that the Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal could not be enforced.
“The verbal agreement cannot be enforced because it’s verbal, exactly as (Senator) Frank(lin) Drilon said that you need a document to prove an agreement. It’s just the way it is,” Locsin said in a television interview last July 3.
The foreign affairs chief also said that allowing China to fish in the country’s EEZ is “not policy.”
Locsin noted that while foreign fishermen are not permitted to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ, allowance can be made if there are excess resources.
“It’s not allowed in our EEZ because we determine the allowable catch but any surplus – I was told by my legal department – if there’s a surplus then you can make an allowance for that. Do we have that (surplus) that would be for BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) to say,” he explained.
Locsin said Duterte may have been “led to believe we had a surplus.”
But Carpio said, “there’s no surplus.”
“Worldwide, in all the oceans and seas of the world, the fish stock has been depleting,” the senior magistrate pointed out.
He also said that if China is allowed access to marine riches in the Philippines’ EEZ, “we will lose…the resources.”
“Because if we allow the Chinese to fish, they’ll scoop everything,” he added.
Aside from Locsin, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also thinks Duterte’s fishing deal with Xi cannot be enforced. Nograles said it was just an “agreement to agree” and was meant to keep the communication lines open between the Philippines and China over the West Philippines Sea dispute.
But the stance of the country’s top diplomat and secretary to the Cabinet differ from that of Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman.
For Secretary Salvador Panelo, the Duterte-Xi unwritten fishing pact was “legally binding.”
“It’s legally binding… Alam mo, there are as many opinions as there are lawyers. It’s a free country. They interpret it that way, eh ‘di hayaan mo. Basta ako, kung ano ‘yung sinabi ni Presidente ‘yun na ‘yon,” Panelo previously told reporters at Malacañang. /kga
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