China will continue to fish in Philippine EEZ, Duterte says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte said friendly relations between the Philippines and China make it difficult to stop the country's Asian neighbor from fishing in territorial waters.

When asked if the country could prevent Chinese fishermen from plying their trade in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the President said, " I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends."

The President added, "And they (China) are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation."

Duterte made the comment to media Monday night.

His statement comes after 22 Filipino fishermen called on the government to make the Recto Bank — which is part of the EEZ — exclusive to Filipinos.

The fishermen were left at sea after a Chinese vessel rammed into their boat near Recto Bank earlier this month.

China, in its refusal to observe a 2016 arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its EEZ, has continued to encroach in some islands and island features in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte has been criticized for his warmer ties with China and his softer assertion of this ruling. While he questions the widespread claims of China in the South China Sea, he has regarded the sinking of the Philippine boat as a “little maritime accident.”

He has since apologized to the fishermen, but said the incident does not warrant sending troops to the area.