By Roy Mabasa
Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement allowing China to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Wednesday questioned the wisdom and legality of such pronouncement in the light of the recent ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel off Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement sent to journalists, Del Rosario asked, “Is this to be viewed as a successful Chinese invasion without a shot being fired?”
Del Rosario, who served as DFA secretary from 2011 to 2015, also questioned whether the President’s statement allowing the Chinese to fish in the Philippine EEZ is now a “policy.”
“Is this not a clear violation of our Constitution that mandates our President and our military to defend what is ours?” he asked.
Del Rosario likewise expressed concern as to the effect of the President’s pronouncement to the arbitration case that the Philippines had won almost three years ago.
He was referring to the July 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated China’s outrageous nine-dash line claim over the vast waters of the South China Sea.
“To what extent will this embolden the Chinese militia vessels to further bully our fishermen? And what is to happen to our poor fishermen?”, Del Rosario asked.
By allowing China to exploit the Philippine EEZ, the former DFA chief raised the specter of the Duterte administration giving up the country’s exclusive rights to oil and gas within its EEZ.
Del Rosario, alongside former Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales, sued Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court in March this year for allegedly committing a crime involving “massive, near permanent and devastating environmental damage” brought about by China’s aggressive island building and occupation of islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“With the artificial island building, the destruction of the marine environment and now this, how much faster will it take to exhaust the fish resources?” he said.
Moreover, Del Rosario asked the Duterte administration, “And when will we stop giving our northern neighbor primacy over that of our own people?”
On Friday, the country’s former top diplomat was barred from entering Hong Kong when he arrived in that country supposedly to attend a corporate meeting of the First Pacific where he sits as a member of the board.
Del Rosario, who was carrying a diplomatic passport, was later deported back to Manila after being held for almost 6 hours by Hong Kong immigration authorities.