MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte insisted Wednesday Manila’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea despite his decision to allow China to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m the owner, and I’m just giving the fishing rights,” Duterte told Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in his show “Give Us This Day.”
The President has earned a sharp rebuke for ealier saying that China could fish in Manila’s EEZ, revealing a 2016 verbal fishing deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, refusing to recognize the July 2016 United Nations arbitral ruling invalidating Beijing’s sweeping claims.
Duterte, who has fostered warm ties with China since he assumed the presidency, said China won’t heed him even if he would ban them in parts of the West Philippine Sea, which they claim.
“Eh kung hindi ko rin payagan, sabihin ng Amerikano — Chinese, ‘Bakit? Is it needed pa ba kami magpermiso sa iyo?’ O eh ‘di pagsabi nilang ‘Huwag ganun,’ eh di mangisda ka,” he said.
The President insists he did not lose parts of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, citing it was during the term of former president Benigno Aquino that the country lost its claim in the area.
The Chief Executive again slammed former Foreign Albert Del Rosario, saying it was during his term as foreign affairs secretary that the Philippines lost its possession of the Scarborough Shoal.
Beijing seized Scarborough, a traditional fishing ground within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012.
“We filed a case for arbitration actually, and we won. But the problem is the property is in their possession. It is with China who claims it also to be his property, their property,” Duterte said.
he gain slammed his critics for pushing him to go to war with China.
“Then they are baiting me to drive them away to protect our marine resources and everything, the fish there. So they want me to drive out the Chinese,” he said.
He again brought up Xi’s warning of trouble if the Phiippines presses its claim in the disputed sea.
“Pag magsabi ‘yan siya, “trouble” what does that mean to you? Mag-giyera ka? Pulbos tayo,” he said.
Despite his softstance against China, Duterte maintained the Philippines did not lose its claims in the West Philippine Sea.
“I did not lose [South] China [Sea],” he said, citing Manila’s victory at The Hague. /muf