The Philippine government should make public an alleged agreement on allowing Chinese fishermen to exploit the country's marine resources, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution said Friday.
Lawyer Christian Monsod said President Rodrigo Duterte could face impeachment if he indeed made a deal that allowed Chinese fishermen to exploit marine resources in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“If it is a gentleman's agreement and the Chinese do carry it out and go there and we don't stop them or do not protest or go to other means and processes, then that it is an impeachable offense. So it depends what kind of agreement. Mukhang wala pa eh,” he told ANC.
“Kung meron, ilabas nila. Because in the interest of transparency, they should disclose to the country if any of our resources are being bargained away out of fear of the Chinese.”
The President earlier said he could not bar Chinese fishermen in the Philippines’ EEZ due to a “mutual agreement” he made with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Alam mo, gusto talaga nila ng gulo. Kasi sabi ko — tanong
sila, ‘Will you allow the Chinese to fish?' Sabi ko, ‘Of course',” he said in a speech at the 122nd anniversary of the Presidential Security Group in Malacañang.
“‘Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, kaya tayo naguusap eh. And that was why we were allowed to fish again. It was a mutual agreement. Sige bigayan tayo. Fish ka doon, fish ako dito.”
Monsod cited the Constitutional provision stating that the EEZ of the Philippines must be protected by the state, which Duterte earlier called “thoughtless and senseless.”
“So any agreement that allows the Chinese to use for their own benefit and enjoyment of what is there in our 200 nautical miles EEZ would be a violation of this constitutional provision,” he said.
“It cannot be bargained away. The President has no power to bargain away what is exclusive for the Filipino.”
Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Duterte's agreement with China is not binding without being ratified by the Filipino people.
“That is a personal agreement. Kaya nga he was pissed off when some people mentioned that such agreement of allowing the Chinese to fish in our territory (within EZZ) is unconstitutional,” she said.
“The Constitution says that ’yung marine area is part of the national territory and it’s exclusively within the sovereignty of the Philippines. You cannot allow anyone to fish without the consent of the people.”
Monsod also hit Duterte for threatening to jail those who would file an impeachment complaint against him.
“Why must our President govern by fear and force? What kind of a President is that? Huwag naman ganyan, di po ba,” he said.
He added there are “many ways” to resolve the maritime conflict without going to war.
“We cannot have our country governed while we are being told that there are only 2 options – which is to bow to everything to what the Chinese wants, or patayan in which 100 million Filipinos will die in a nuclear war. Ano yun? Pananakot at violence,” he said.
“There are many ways to arrive at international relations with our neighbors. Why do we tell the Filipinos there are only two options? What kind of governance is that?”
Monsod, meantime, pushed for a commercial agreement with China over resources in the disputed sea.
“We will sell them what our fishermen catch and we don't need in our country, right? Why not? Is that a matter of sovereignty with them or it's just a matter of food source?” he said.
“After all, we already have the ruling of the Netherlands sa arbitration that it's ours. The 200 nautical miles area is ours.”
Beijing has refused to recognize a Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in 2016 that invalidated its sweeping claims.