By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday expressed doubts that President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that Chinese fishermen can venture into Manila’s waters is an impeachable offense.
“It is a messaging problem. Having said that, even if the President has announced to all and sundry that he will not allow Chinese fishermen or any foreign fishing vessel to fish within the Philippines’ EEZ (exclusive economic zone), the reality is, The Hague arbitral ruling is unenforceable,” Lacson said in a text message to reporters.
“Not to mention, it is not within our capability or power, militarily or otherwise to prevent such incursions,” he further said.
Lacson was reacting to a warning made by Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, that Duterte might face a fresh impeachment complaint over his statements Chinese fishers can venture into the country’s EEZ to fish because both countries, China and Philippines, are “friends.”
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo later on backed the President’s stand, saying the government will “tolerate” China’s fishermen within the EEZ.
This, even as Manila has exclusive rights to resources within the area, based on a 2016 ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“If such incursions would be interpreted as an impeachable offense, we may witness a rapid succession to the presidency of this country that the world has never seen before,” Lacson said.
“Moreover, there is no concrete act on the part of PRRD (Duterte’s initials) that is violative of Art XII, Sec 2, paragraph 2 of the 1987 Constitution, but simply a media statement, which I don’t think is sufficient to impeach him as his critics are contemplating to do,” the senator said.