President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have verbal agreement on allowing the Chinese fishermen in the Philippine waters, Malacañang said on Monday.
There is no written agreement between the two Presidents and according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the verbal understanding was reached during the bilateral meeting in 2016.
“I think there was no signing involved. They only talked. You know, heads of state have their word of honor. There was no need for that,” Panelo said.
The President mentioned the deal last Monday in the reason of why he can’t ban the Chinese from fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
The deal is an exchange of allowing Filipinos to fish again in the Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal, which China barricaded after taking it from the Philippines in 2012.
“Remember we weren’t allowed in Scarborough (Shoal) before. They were being shooed away. But after that (the agreement), things were OK,” Panelo said.
Panelo said that there’s nothing wrong with the agreement even if it was not a legally binding agreement.
“Even in law, even it’s verbal, it’s still valid and binding, as long as there is mutual consent between the two parties. That’s why it’s an agreement.”
Lawmakers said the deal is a violation
Lawmakers and maritime law experts said the deal is a violation of the Philippine Constitution.
According to them, such deal needs congressional approval and the failure to do that can be a leverage for the President’s impeachment.
These comments angered the President that’s why he threatened to arrest those who would complain for his impeachment.
Vice President Leni Robredo also spoke on her radio program on Sunday calling for transparency from the Malacañang regarding the deal with Xi.
Saying that they have no knowledge of the terms of the agreement and if it is a treaty, then it should be approved by the Senate first.
Robredo is insisting on asking the Filipino people to continue fighting for their rights and territories.
War with China
President Duterte said that Xi had warned that China would go to war with Philippines if it keeps on claiming the portion over the South China Sea.
Panelo on Monday dismissed Bayan Muna’s criticism of the agreement, assuming that it was only disclosed last week.
“We’ve been saying that even before, even myself. There was a deal, that’s why Scarborough Shoal was resolved,” Panelo said.
Although, he said that the deal is not a surrender of Philippine rights over South China Sea.
Referring to the Hague court’s ruling regarding the exclusive right in the area, Panelo said, “That’s the modus vivendi. We’re giving way as of now. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t invoke it in due time.”
Oil at Recto Bank
Besides the fishing deal, Duterte also spoke about the joint exploration with the oil resources at Recto Bank.
He recalled how China warned “trouble” if the Philippines insists on drilling for oil in the area.
Panelo, however, said on Monday that the Palace remained hopeful about the joint exploration.
“We can still talk about it. Friends are able to talk about anything,” Panelo said.