MANILA Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday clarified that the supposed verbal fishing agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping is not a policy.
The clarification came after the chief executive got some flak when he bared that he had an informal agreement with Xi to allow the Chinese to fish within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) if Beijing allowed Filipinos to fish in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during their first bilateral meeting in October 2016.
Upon assuming his position as the country's top diplomat, Locsin said he was not told about the said deal.
"Which goes to show that this was not written down, otherwise I would be briefed upon taking the position," he said in a television interview.
"It's something he said, I don't know if he actually said it. If he said he did then perhaps he did under the impression that there is a surplus," he added.
Locsin said President Duterte may have been given the impression that there is a level of beyond allowable catch, that if there is a surplus then it can be shared with foreign fishermen.
Locsin said the criticism hurled at the president is "pointless" as a verbal agreement cannot be enforced on the Philippines.
Some critics allege that the president's informal agreement with China to allow foreign fishermen to fish within the country's EEZ undermines the Constitution.
"The verbal agreement cannot be enforced on us because it's verbal. You need a document to prove an agreement. That's the way it is," Locsin stressed.
"The question is if it's policy? It's not policy," he said.
Locsin said the Philippine government has enforced "everything that is our right" under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and has continuously protested its violation.
"We insist on it, I protest its violation, can we go further than that? That's the judgment call made by the president. The president feels that it may create a conflict that will hurt the country; (because) the more we progress, the more vulnerable we are because there's more target. That's his call because I'm not the president," he noted.
Although Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo recently said a verbal agreement is valid, he noted in a June 25 press briefing that he will further clarify with the President if tolerating Chinese access to the Philippine EEZ is a policy statement. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency