President Rodrigo Duterte might use the State of the Nation Address this month, his fourth, as an opportunity to “educate” Filipinos on the West Philippine Sea.
The president insisted that his previous statement that China would continue to trawl in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was not a violation of the constitution.
“‘Yung sabi nila na unconstitutional… maybe sa SONA, I will educate people na ‘yung ginawa ko sabi ko ‘You can fish’… Tama talaga ako,” Duterte told reporters Monday night.
(What they are saying that it is unconstitutional… maybe on my SONA I will educate people that wha I said ‘You (China) can fish (in the EEZ)’… I am right.)
Duterte stressed that his position on allowing Chinese fishing vessels access to Philippine waters does not violate the 1987 Constitution, which mandates the government to protect marine wealth in the country’s waters and exclusive economic zone “and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
The president said: “Hindi unconstitutional ‘yung ginawa ko (What I did was not unconstitutional). As a matter of fact, it was in keeping with the law.”
On the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Duterte said the incident was “serious.”
The president earlier said it was a “little maritime accident” while a leaked report from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority classified the allision as a “very serious marine casualty.”
“It is a serious (accident) but when you talk about marine transportation… it is a maritime incident and that is very small because nobody died,” Duterte said.
Following the allision near Recto Bank last month, the president said the Chinese would continue to fish within Philippine EEZ due to the friendship between the two countries.
Critics were quick to point out that the president’s pronouncements violate the constitution.
Citing the constitution, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Duterte cannot allow China to fish within Philippine waters as he is mandated to protect the country’s marine wealth in its EEZ.
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
In response, Duterte called Carpio stupid.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also said Duterte’s position on the matter could be a basis for impeachment.
“This will no doubt emboldern the fishermen, or if they are at all fishermen, under the militia strategy that they are using because they were acting like bullies before this was declared by the president,” Del Rosario told ANC last month.