On the West Philippine Sea

There is no truth to the speculation of a purported “verbal fishing agreement” between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jin Ping, nor that Chinese vessels were encouraged to stay in West Philippine Sea despite the diplomatic protests and strongly worded statements of Philippine government officials. This is without basis and is quite simply, conjecture.

A fishing agreement under our domestic laws can only be done through a treaty. Per Article 2 (1) (a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, a treaty is an international agreement concluded between States in written form. Clearly, a treaty must be in writing. No such treaty or agreement exists between the Philippines and China.

The President does not condone unlawful commercial fishing by any state on Philippine waters. However, the President also recognizes that subsistence (non-commercial) fishing may be allowed as a recognition of the traditional fishing rights pointed out by the Arbitral Tribunal itself in its Award on Jurisdiction (para. 407) in the case between the Philippines and China.

Let us therefore stop making malicious speculations and false claims made to pointlessly inflame the situation. We ask everyone to just focus our time and effort on productive activities that will enable us help one another at this time of pandemic.