Palace ‘like a headless chicken’ on West Philippine Sea issue – Carpio
MANILA, Philippines — Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday scored presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. for denying the verbal fishing agreement that President Rodrigo Duterte admitted to have forged with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The Palace is running like a headless chicken when it comes to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) [issue],” Carpio told the Inquirer.
“The Palace has conflicting positions on the fishing agreement. Changing positions confuse all our people, supporters and allies. The adversary will exploit such confusion,” he warned.
Roque on Friday dismissed as “conjecture” Mr. Duterte’s own admission that he entered into a “verbal fishing agreement” with Xi in 2016 that opened the Philippine waters to Chinese fishermen.“There is no truth to the speculation of a purported ‘verbal fishing agreement’ between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping,” Roque said in a statement.
But the President himself spent several minutes during his 2019 State of the Nation Address talking about the agreement.
Salvador Panelo, the chief legal counsel, even said that “even if it’s verbal, it’s valid and binding as long as there is mutual consent from the two parties.”
But Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. admitted in 2019 that the President may have entered into that agreement in personal talks with Xi in 2016, but doubted its legality because it was just a verbal agreement.
“[But] the verbal agreement cannot be enforced. It cannot be enforced on us because it’s verbal,” Locsin said in a televised interview in 2019. “It’s not policy.”
Opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon agreed and reiterated on Saturday that such verbal agreement was illegal because he cannot give away fishing rights enshrined in the Constitution nor enter into treaties without the ratification of the Senate.
“If it is a verbal agreement, that should not be complied with as it is void. Agreements between countries must be in written form, in treaties, which need to be ratified by the Senate,” he said.Drilon said the Philippines’ position on the WPS had been compromised by the Duterte government’s wavering stand, based on a supposed “appeasement and accommodation policy” on China.“China will continue to ignore us because of the Philippine government’s appeasement and accommodation policy. We have won a case in the International Tribunal, which said that China’s claim has no basis, but they have been taking it for granted,” he said.
While the agreement may be void from the start, Carpio said it was precisely what emboldened the Chinese fishermen to repeatedly intrude into Philippine territorial waters.
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