ByArgyll Cyrus B. Geducos
The Philippines is set to enforce the laws on its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the mutual agreement between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping is yet to be formalized, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles made the statement following criticisms on President Duterte when he said that such provisions in the Constitution are senseless and thoughtless when talking of the disputed waters.
In an interview in Malacañang, Nograles said that the government will enforce whatever is in the law. Under Section 91 of Republic Act No. 10654, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, it is unlawful for any foreign person, corporation or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters.
“Kung ano ang nandoon sa batas (Whatever is in the law), we will enforce what is in the law. So if it is for us to protect, according to our fisheries code, our fisheries laws, then we will enforce the law,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
“We will continue to protect it so we will continue to enforce the law. As much as we should, as much as we can. The law is clear so we will continue to enforce our law,” he added.
Nograles said that it is the duty of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to implement the law.
“Specifically, it’s our exclusive economic zone and if whatever is written in the laws according to how to enforce that, then we enforce it. And that is the job of the Philippine Coast Guard,” he said.
“It’s the Philippine Coast Guard now who will enforce whatever is written in our laws, that’s their mandate, and that is what they must do because that is their duty,” he added.
Nograles then explained that the agreement between Duterte and Xi on the disputed waters is only an “agreement to have an agreement” on fishing in the EEZ.
“If there were verbal talks between state heads, those verbal talks, unless it is formalized, written down, and stated therein provision by provision the terms of reference, terms and conditions, then it is an agreement to come into an agreement,” he said.
“Without those specified specific provisions, then it’s just an agreement to come into an agreement,” he added.
“If ever there was something said, it’s just parang let’s talk about this somewhere. Open the lines of communication, and that’s what we have. We have a bilateral mechanism, consultative mechanism and I think that meets regularly. So unless that is translated into hard and specific words, and sentences and provisions, then it is just an agreement to come into an agreement,” he continued.
The former lawmaker then said that whatever the outcome of this agreement may be, he assured that it will be constitutional.
“Whatever the decision would be, obviously it will be within the limits of the law. Kung ano ang (Whatever the) limitations of the law, we will just follow what is within the limits of the law,” Nograles said.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Duterte is going beyond the constitutional provision of protecting the country’s resources in the EEZ since invoking it would only court in dangers, especially in the current situation in the disputed waters.
“I agree with him (President Duterte) completely – that that provision if you enforce that literally then you’re courting in dangers; because precisely China would not want that,” he said in an interview with ANC.
“In other words, what benefit do you have if you enforce that provision and then losing everything?” he added.
Panelo also said that Duterte’s critics are interpreting the Constitution quite literally.
“Critics and detractors, especially those lawyers, they are reading the provision in isolation of the other provisions of the Constitution,” he said.
“When you read a provision, you always relate it to the other provisions; hindi pupuwedeng iisa lang. Kung literal ang ano mo diyan, eh talagang magkakamali ka diyan (If you interpret that literally, you will make a mistake),” he added.
President Duterte earlier dared his critics to file an impeachment complaint against him over his remarks on the country’s EEZ following the abandonment of 22 Filipino fishermen by a Chinese vessel which hit their anchored boat near the Recto Bank on June 9.