MANILA — Malacañang stated on Wednesday, clarifying President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous remarks that China would not allow its fishermen to strain their trade in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement that was what Duterte meant when he said he could not bar Chinese fishermen in the Philippines’ EEZ out of friendship.
“It appears that what the President meant was China would not allow their nationals from fishing in our EEZ since they treat us as their friends, knowing that permitting their fishermen to fish in our EEZ would only result in an unwanted hostility leading to an armed confrontation,” Panelo stated.
“He (Duterte) confirmed that indeed that was what he meant.”
Last Wednesday, Panelo noted the government would “tolerate” China’s fishermen in the EEZ, where Manila has exclusive rights to resources, based on a 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed court.
The President’s spokesman stated that he himself “misconstrued” Duterte.
“I myself responded to this question raised by the same reporter, which was based on a wrong conjectural premise, and now obviously a misinterpretation of PRRD’s quick retort,” he added.
Panelo strained that the President “will not relinquish” the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.
This after a maritime law expert cautioned that Duterte’s remarks could be used as basis for impeachment, while Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said the President’s statement violates the Constitution.
Citing Duterte’s push for the South China Sea code at the recently concluded 34th ASEAN Summit, “The President, in order to advance our sovereign rights over our EEZ, has publicly urged China to join in the finalization of a code of conduct in the contested waters.”
“The Filipinos can rest assured that the President’s actions are all in accord with his Constitutional mandate to serve and protect the Filipino people.”
Panelo, in the meantime, advised the public to wait for the results of the authorities’ formal investigation into the Reed Bank incident, wherein a Chinese ship rammed into an anchored Filipino boat in the disputed sea.
A Cabinet official stated the report of Philippine maritime authorities on the incident has been submitted to Duterte’s office last week.