MANILA, Jun 26, 2019, PhilStar. Allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea would violate the Constitution, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said, reported the Philippine Star.
While President Rodrigo Duterte said China would continue to fish within Philippine EEZ because of the friendship between the two countries, Carpio pointed out that the government cannot allow this.
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
As commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Duterte has the constitutional duty to direct the military to protect the country’s marine wealth in its EEZ, the justice said.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is specifically tasked by the Constitution to be ‘the protector of the people’ and to ‘secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory,'” Carpio said in a statement released Tuesday.
Citing the Constitution, Carpio also noted that the national territory includes “other submarine areas” where the Philippines has “sovereignty or jurisdiction.”
In July 2016, the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal ruled that the Philippines has jurisdiction over its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, including Recto or Reed Bank. Under the Constitution, these areas are also considered part of the “national territory.”
“The Philippines has exclusive right to exploit all the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone,” Carpio said.
“This sovereign right belongs to the Filipino people, and no government can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent,” he added.
Duterte made the statement that Chinese fishermen should be allowed in the Philippine EEZ following a collision between a Filipino fishing boat and a suspected Chinese militia vessel near Recto Bank.
The 22 Filipino fishermen, whose boat sank after being hit by the Chinese trawler, claimed that the offending vessel immediately left the scene after the allision.
The Chinese side, on the other hand, claimed that they tried to help the Filipino fishermen but were besieged by other Filipino boats in the area.
The Philippines and China are currently investigating the incident to determine who should be held accountable for the boat sinking.