PRRD has authority to enter into verbal fishing deal: Palace

MANILA President Rodrigo Duterte has authority to enter into executive agreements including a verbal deal that gives China fishing rights in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), MalacaAang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo refuted the joint statement made by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario who claimed that no public official, not even the President, has "the authority to grant foreigners fishing rights".

The President, as the chief architect of our foreign policy, has the authority to enter into executive agreements, written or oral, said Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, in a statement.

Panelo explained that because executive agreements are usually less formal and deal with a narrower range of subject matters than treaties, Philippine jurisprudence or case law has long-recognized that this power may be exercised by the President even without the concurrence of Congress.

Conventions or high-level meetings among foreign leaders are useless if they cannot commit and bind their countries at the time of said engagements, Panelo said.

He reiterated that the Constitution's provision which reserves the use and enjoyment of the nation's marine wealth to Filipino citizens (Section 2, Article 12), must be read in relation to the President's prime duty to serve and to protect the Filipino people (Section 4, Article).

Moreover, Panelo said Duterte is also complying with international obligations, one of which is to observe friendliness towards neighboring countries.

The rationale for this is simple: In a world where countries have the ability to craft their own respective sets of rules, conflicting municipal policies are inevitable in cases which reach the level of an international concern, Panelo said.

The 2016 fishing verbal agreement between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping allowed Chinese to fish within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile EEZ if China allowed Filipinos to fish in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

'It's ours'

Panelo said Duterte has also made it clear in his fourth state of the nation address (SONA) that, Philippines is the owner of the West Philippine Sea, and is only granting fishing rights to China.

This is analogous to the civil law aspect of ownership which has an attribute of providing the owner the right to allow others to use one's property, Duterte said.

He explained that the right is being exercised by the President with the country's interest as his primary consideration.

The agreement was entered into not because of any threat or vitiation of consent, but because the President sees such arrangement as pragmatic which can keep at bay any conflict between two countries, while we gain a venue where we can assert our sovereign rights, Panelo said.

The motivation of PRRD in entering into the agreement is the welfare of the Filipino people in general, not just to ensure their physical safety but also to enable them to exploit the natural resources in the waters being controlled by China as a source of their livelihood. These are being achieved now, he added.

Not a secret

Panelo described as absurd the claim made by Carpio-Morales and Del Rosario that the verbal fishing deal was kept as a secret since the administration has been as transparent as it can be.

The oral agreement was recorded by an appropriate officer during the bilateral meeting. The President was explicit about it, Panelo said.

In addition, Panelo said he himself mentioned it in his earlier press briefings and that then Foreign Affairs Secretary, now House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had also made pronouncements before the public about it.

According to Panelo, Cayetano said Philippines and China co-control the disputed waters and that the fishermen should both be free to fish there.

He, meanwhile, vowed to continue to assert Philippine rights but only though the peaceful manner of diplomatic negotiations, insisting that it is one of the most effective modes of settling international disputes. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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