Duterte claims earlier deal with Xi allows China to fish in Recto Bank

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President Rodrigo Duterte (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte cited a previous agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping which allows Beijing to fish in Recto Bank.

In a speech before members of the Presidential Security Group on Monday, the President said he and Xi agreed that China will no longer block fishermen from Scarborough Shoal — the subject of a standoff in 2012 — in exchange for permit to fish in Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank.

“Will you allow the Chinese to fish? Of course. ‘Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, kaya tayong nag-uusap. And that was we were allowed to fish again. It was a mutual agreement. Sige bigayan tayo. Fish ka doon, fish ako dito,” Duterte said at the 122nd anniversary of the Presidential Security Group in Malacañang on Monday.

[Translation: Will you allow the Chinese to fish? Of course. That’s what we talked about before, that’s why we talked. And that was why we were allowed to fish again. It was a mutual agreement. Let’s give and take. You can fish here, and I can fish there.]

Duterte had discussed fishing rights in Scarborough Shoal with Xi during his state visit to China in 2016.

The President, in his speech, also argued that enforcing a ban on Chinese fishing in Philippine waters would cause a problem.

Kung i-prohibit ko, how do I enforce? Takot nga ang Amerika. Ayaw nga mag-confront. Tapos ako pa ang ipusta nila? Gusto talaga nila mapasubo ako,” he said.

[Translation: If I prohibit, how do I enforce. America is scared. It does not want to confront. And then they will have me face it? They really want me to receive the blow.]

Duterte then hit back at Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio — along with opposition senators — who called out the administration’s hands-off approach to Chinese fishing in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Alam mo Justice Carpio napaka-estupido mo. That's why hanggang diyan ka lang,” he said.

[Translation: You know, Justice Carpio, you are stupid. That’s why you’ll stay there.]

Carpio, in a statement Monday night, said allowing China to fish in the Philippine EEZ is unconstitutional. Citing a 2016 international arbitral tribunal ruling, he said the Philippines has "jurisdiction" over its EEZ, including Recto Bank and that "national territory" includes the country's EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

The President insisted no country has sovereignty over its EEZ, only over the 12 nautical mile territorial sea as provided by international law. Carpio and other critics, however, cited the country's sovereign rights — not sovereignty — in its EEZ, as internal law provides.

The tribunal ruling which Duterte also referred to, also recognized Recto Bank as part of the country's continental shelf and EEZ. The ruling said Beijing violated Manila's sovereign rights by its actions including fishing and destruction of the marine environment in sea features within the Philippines' EEZ. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague served as registry of the proceedings.

Duterte also dared the U.S. — which has condemned China’s militarization of the resource-rich waterway — and other nations to help the Philippines take back islands it claims.

Ang hamon ko sa Amerika, Britain, France. Mag-assemble tayo dito sa Palawan. Tapos diretso na tayo doon sa Spratly (Islands). Agawin na natin,” he said.

[Translation: I dare America, Britain, and France. Let’s assemble in Palawan. Then let’s head to Spratly’s. Let’s take it back.]

Issues on Philippine sovereign rights over features in the West Philippine Sea arose anew after a Chinese vessel hit a Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank on June 9, and left the 22 Filipino fishermen onboard as their boat sank. Recto Bank lies 85 nautical miles off the Palawan and the arbitral tribunal recognized it as part of the Philippines' continental shelf.