Philippines Report

Senators question presence of Chinese ‘friends’ in Philippine EEZ


MANILA, Philippines —A few members of the 24-seat Senate have expressed dissent against the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte that China can continue fishing inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone since the two countries are “friends”.

Sens. Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, both from the minority bloc, pointed out that allowing Chinese vessels to fish within Philippine EEZ violates the constitution. Related Stories Duterte: No stopping China from fishing in Philippines waters Carpio: Allowing Chinese fishermen in Philippine EEZ unconstitutional

“The Philippine government has the sacred duty to defend our marine wealth in the EEZ and to ‘reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,' using the phrase in our Constitution,” Pangilinan said in a statement released Wednesday.

Pangilinan also noted that while President Rodrigo Duterte is allowed under the constitution to enter into agreements involving mineral resources, he cannot do the same thing with marine resources.

According to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, “the State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

Pangilinan called on the government to hold those who rammed the boat of the 22 Filipino fishermen near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea accountable.

“Love the Philippines. Love the Filipinos, especially the fishermen who feed us. Don't allow foreigners to fish in our EEZ, hold to account those who rammed and left our fishermen at sea,” Pangilinan said.

Hontiveros also raised concern over Duterte's act of “friendzoning” in the country's EEZ.

“While we recognize and celebrate our long ties with China, this is no reason for President Duterte to surrender our sovereign rights and to disregard our own Constitution and laws amid China's brazen incursions in our territory,” Hontiveros said Tuesday.

Hontiveros stressed that Filipinos have exclusive and special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources within the Philippine EEZ.

The senator also slammed the Duterte's foreign policy that she said “couldn't get any more dysfunctional and absurd.”

Hontiveros also lamented how Duterte dismissed the plight of the 22 fishermen by calling the ramming near Recto Bank a minor incident. She pointed out that the suspected Chinese militia vessel abandoned the Filipino fishermen and left them “at the mercy of the sea.”

“The president swore an oath to execute the country's laws; he cannot allow any country to disregard and violate the country's maritime and fishing laws: friends or not, our loyalty as government officials must ultimately lie with the interests of the sovereign Filipino nation and its Constitution and laws,” Hontiveros said.

Constitution doesn't mention ‘friends'

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a part of the Senate majority, also questioned Duterte's stand on letting the Chinese fish in Philippine EEZ.

“Somebody please help me find the word ‘friends' below,” Lacson tweeted, quoting the second paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio shared the same sentiments as Pangilinan, Hontiveros and Lacson.

Carpio said Tuesday night that under the constituion, the national territory includes “submarine areas” where the Philippines has “sovereignty or jurisdiction.”

“This sovereign right belongs to the Filipino people, and no government can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent,” Carpio said.

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