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‘Palusot lang’: Bayan Muna skeptical of Duterte’s 2016 verbal deal with China

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Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Tuesday expressed skepticism about President Rodrigo Duterte’s “verbal” agreement with China in 2016 to allow the Chinese to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone or EEZ in exchange for allowing Philippine fishermen to fish in Scarborough Shoal.

They said the supposed verbal deal was only a “palusot,” noting that the Philippines reported no such phantom agreement when Duterte visited China in October 2016.

The Bayan Muna leaders insisted that even if such verbal agreement existed, Duterte’s action “violates the Philippine Constitution and laws and is even not consistent with UNCLOS.”

“Pres. Duterte’s admission that there was an agreement to allow China to fish in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in exchange for allowing Philippine fishermen to fish in Scarborough Shoal is fake news and a “palusot” to justify Pres. Duterte’s unwillingness to defend our fishermen and our marine resources,” Colmenares said.

“Malacanang’s failure to produce the agreement, claiming later that it was “verbal” only proves that there was no such agreement especially since the Philippines reported no such concession when Duterte visited China in October 2016. In fact, when fishermen complained of being harassed by the Chinese in Scarborough Shoal as late as 2019, Malacanang did not even mention such a phantom agreement,” he said.

“Worse, this phantom agreement violates not only the Philippine Constitution but also Philippine laws,” Colmenares said, citing Section 2 of PD 1599.

“Clearly, a supposed verbal and personal concession given by Pres. Duterte, especially if everyone including the Congress is unaware of such concession, cannot be deemed the agreement entered into by the Republic of the Philippines under PD 1599,” he added.

Zarate, meanwhile, said that even if presuming that Pres. Duterte made a “verbal” agreement he should also have first complied with UNCLOS.

“His personal and verbal grant of fishing concessions to China, presuming it is true, did not even consider Article 62 paragraph 4 of UNCLOS that ‘Nationals of other States fishing in the exclusive economic zone shall comply with the conservation measures and with the other terms and conditions established in the laws and regulations of the coastal State,” he said.

“Even presuming that such a verbal agreement indeed took place in 2016, this is still a violation of the Philippine Constitution,” Zarate said.

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