CHINA appear to have succeeded in their diplomatic battle over the South China Sea after a prominent politician in the Philippines supported Chinese fishermen – leading to calls for President Duterte’s impeachment.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that he sees no issue with Chinese fishermen venturing into private Philippine waters – despite his country having exclusive rights to their use. It echoes Philippine President Duterte’s words earlier this week when he reaffirmed good relations between China and the Philippines and urged a peaceful conclusion to the years-long conflict. Their words have led to fresh calls from the opposition for Mr Duterte’s impeachment over constitutional treason.
This comes amid an ongoing dispute between Beijing and Manila over rights to supposed sovereign parts of the South China Sea.
The Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a 200 nautical mile area where only domestic fishermen are allowed to work, according to the constitution.
Beijing has been pressuring Manila to allow them to operate in their EEZ due to both countries’ disputed claims over the ocean region.
Asked about Mr Duterte’s friendly words to Beijing earlier this week, Mr Sotto said: “He’s the President. The buck stops with him.
“If it’s wrong or right, it’s his accountability.
“We must realise that there are fishermen from other countries – it is not confined to the Chinese.”
He added that there is no issue with China fishing in their EEZ “as long as we’re allowed to fish also in their zones, because they will treat us as friends likewise”.
This will be seen by many as a diplomatic victory for Beijing after weeks of Chinese aggression in the area.
Mr Duterte unprecedentedly appeared to yield to China earlier this week when he dismissed the ordeal of 22 Filipino fishermen whose ship was rammed by a Chinese vessel.
Justifying his pacifism, he controversially said: “Well, I’m sorry, but that is how it is.