MANILA (Manila Times) –The Philippines will not stop China from fishing in the country’s territorial waters, the Presidential Palace said on Tuesday amid calls on the government to make Recto (Reed) Bank an exclusive fishing ground for Filipinos.
Recto Bank is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government would “tolerate” the practice of the Chinese to fish in Philippine waters, echoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that friendly relations between the Philippines and China make it difficult to stop the latter from fishing in the country’s EEZ.
“He (Duterte) explained it. He said as far as they’re concerned, they have historical right to that. We will allow it because we are friends so, let’s be giving, that’s the President’s point,” Panelo said during a news briefing.
But the Palace official pointed out that allowing China to fish in Philippine waters did not mean that the country was granting rights to them.
“It’s not necessarily granting rights. We will tolerate it because we’re friends. If you’re friends you give way to each other,” Panelo said.
But he added that he would ask the President if “that is a policy statement.”
On Monday, Duterte said China would not be stopped from fishing even inside the Philippines’ EEZ.
“I don’t think that China will do that. Why? Because we are friends. And [they’re] of the same view that that should not result to a bloody conclusion,” Duterte said.
The 22 Filipino fishers, whose boat was rammed near Recto Bank by a Chinese trawler earlier, urged Duterte to declare the area an exclusive fishing ground for Filipinos.
Duterte has been criticized for cozying up with China and for declaring the Recto Bank incident as a “little maritime accident.”
The President had said the incident did not warrant the sending of troops to the area.
Panelo said Duterte allowing China to fish in the country’s EEZ was not an “act of treason.”
“How can it be treason? Under the ruling, it can be granted)?” he said, referring to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated China’s historic claims over the West Philippine (South China) Sea.
China has refused to acknowledge the ruling and continues to claim nearly the entire South China Sea.
Duterte has repeatedly said the country could not afford to go to war against China, but has promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with China during his term.