PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is allowing Chinese nationals to fish in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), since he is considering China as a "friend" and a "trading partner," Malacañang admitted Wednesday, June 26.
In a radio interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo believed that the President was indebted to China for its willingness to help his administration to boost the Philippine economy.
Panelo stressed that Duterte, in turn, has to give some "privileges" to China.
"Alam mo, ang tinitignan ko kung bakit ganoon si President, on the basis of his statement, kasi magkakaibigan tayo. At 'pag sinabi niyang magkakaibigan, tinitignan ko ano bang naging base ng pagiging pagkakaibigan natin," the Palace official said.
(You know, on the basis of the President's statement, we are friends with China. And when you say we are friends, you'll look at the basis of our friendship.)
"Marami tayong trade relations, marami tayong negosasyon sa gobyerno ng Tsina upang paunlarin ang ating bansa. Kumbaga, meron tayong pakinabang sa kanila. Baka sa punto ni Presidente eh mag-bigay din tayo ng kaunti sa kanila. Parang ganoon ang dating sa akin sa mga sinabi ni Presidente," he added.
(We have numerous trade relations and negotiations with China aimed at developing our country. We benefit from them. Perhaps, the President thinks we should also give back. That's how I interpret the President's statement.)
Panelo issued the statement after Duterte said China would continue to fish within the Philippine waters because of the "friendship" between Manila and Beijing.
Duterte's statement has drawn flak from his critics, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who said that allowing China to fish in the Philippines' EEZ was "unconstitutional."
The President's apparent leniency toward China came following the June 9 ramming and abandonment of a sinking Philippine boat by a Chinese trawler near Recto (Reed) Bank, which is located within Manila's 200-nautical-mile EEZ.
Panelo, however, defended the President, as he noted that granting other countries' the fishing rights within the Philippine waters is allowed under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
"Sinabi ni Presidente na even under the Unclos, eh puwede tayong magbigay ng pribilehiyo sa mga ibang bansa na mag-fish sa lugar (The President said that even under Unclos, we can grant fishing privilege to other nations)," he said.
Duterte has earned criticisms from the opposition and even from the 22 distressed Filipino fishermen after repeatedly describing the sinking of the Filipino vessel as a mere "maritime incident."
The President has already apologized to the 22 Filipinos aboard the sunken boat, but emphasized that the joint investigation by the Philippines and China is the best way to shed light on the Recto Bank incident.
Panelo urged the public to trust the President, who he said is exhausting all efforts to protect the country's interest.
He reiterated that the President is just "balancing the interest of the state," so as to avoid potential consequences of the Philippines's next move with regard to the incident concerning and Filipino fishermen.
"Sila ay mag-tiwala sa Pangulo, sapagkat siya ay gumagalaw. Lahat ng hakbangin niya ay batay sa probisyon ng Saligang Batas na bigyan ng proteksyon ang sambayanang Pilipino at pag-silbihan ito," he said.
(Trust the President because he's acting on it. All his actions are based on the provision of the Constitution aimed at protecting and serving the Filipino people.)
"Lahat ng mga ginagawa po ni Presidente ay binabalanse niya 'yung kapakanan ng ating bansa, ang interest, at 'yun ding magiging konsekuwensiya kung tayo ay hindi rin susunod sa mga patakaran na binibigay ng batas international," said Panelo.
(He is just balancing his actions to protect the country's welfare and interest. He is also considering the possible consequences, if we do not follow the international law.) (SunStar Philippines)