MANILA, Philippines — The foreign policy of the Philippines should not depend on the personal friendships of the President, Senator Richard Gordon said on Thursday.
“Our foreign policy and our national interest, cannot rely on personal friendships,” Gordon said during a weekly press forum at the Senate in Pasay City.
Gordon’s reaction came after President Rodrigo Duterte said he had an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow China to fish in the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) after Beijing granted Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough Shoal.
READ: Duterte: China can fish in Philippines’ EEZ
“The foreign policy of this country and the defense of this country cannot depend on the personal friendship of the President,” Gordon pointed out.
According to the senator, the President should consult Congress on the matter of allowing Chinese fishermen to trawl within the country’s EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.
“I don’t agree with that, right away when I saw that I was kind of disappointed when I saw that,” he said.
He was referring to the President’s pronouncement that the Chinese will not be barred from fishing in the Philippines’ territorial water.
“But again it’s also an act of sovereignty to allow a country to fish with you. In fact, there are provisions in the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) that if you cannot fish or if there’s a surplus and if you allow other countries to fish, you may allow it. That’s an act of sovereignty,” he said.
“But the President should consult Congress on that matter,” he added.
“The President will consult us ‘Payag ba kayo diyan?’ And we say no, kapag tinuloy niya pa rin ‘yan, eh dun magkakaroon ng problema,’ the senator further said.
Gordon suggested that if China should be allowed to fish in the country’s EEZ, an agreement must be laid out to define the rules on how often Chinese fishermen may conduct fishing activities there, among others.
“And then he (Duterte) must explain why it is necessary,” Gordon said.
However, he doubts China would consent on an agreement that will be crafted by the Philippine side.
“Sakin eh malabo ‘yan. Kasi hindi papayag ang China,” he noted.
“Tayo ang gagawa niyan (agreement), ‘di papayag ang China because China insists on their nine-dash line,” he added.
China has been asserting its nine-dash line claim that covers almost the entire South China Sea, including the Philippines’ EEZ.
But a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague in The Netherlands in July 2016 has invalidated China’s nine-dash line.
Gordon also said the Philippine government should have a “backbone” in addressing the country’s maritime dispute with China.
“The Philippines must have a backbone… We’re all at fault here. Congress is at fault, we must make sure that we prioritize if we really have claims. We must prioritize our Navy,” he said.