Sotto clarifies ‘tongue-in-cheek’ remark on WPS issue

MANILA Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday clarified that the remarks he made on the issue of allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea were "tongue-in-cheek".

Sotto drew criticisms over his recent statement in a television interview that he sees no problem with President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Sotto noted that it would be difficult to determine the exclusivity of marine resources when it is underwater.

The fish could be coming from China and the fish from the Philippines could be going to China," Sotto said over a cable television news program.

Sotto, however, clarified to reporters that: "My comment on WPS and its resources was a tongue-in-cheek statement. Sadly, kaunti lang ang nakaintindi (Sadly, only a few can understand)."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified an earlier statement he made saying Philippines is not granting access to Chinese nationals to fish within EEZ but was tolerating it in the spirit of their close friendship.

The fact is we do not know if Chinese nationals were fishing there at the time of the maritime incident, Panelo said in a statement.

Everything is purely speculative at this stage. Even during the collision, facts remain unclear if the Chinese vessel was fishing or only exercising their right of innocent passage, he added.

Panelo stressed that it was "prudent to wait for the results of the formal investigation conducted by both Philippine and Chinese authorities.

He also clarified Duterte's statement that it is part of the agreement between the Philippines and China that Filipino fishermen are allowed to fish in the disputed waters in which they both claim ownership of.

Panelo said he asked Duterte about his statement on Wednesday evening and that he confirmed that indeed that was what he meant.

He (Duterte) explained that his first visit to China resulted into a modus vivendi where China which claims ownership of Reed Bank, by virtue of historical right, would allow our fishermen to catch fish there, a place declared to be within our EEZ, Panelo said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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