By Rey Panaligan
Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio cautioned President Duterte on Wednesday, June 26, that allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is against the Constitution.
Carpio cited a constitutional provision which states that “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
Thus, Carpio pointed out that “the Philippine government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.
This also means that the ‘use and enjoyment’ of the fish in our EEZ is reserved exclusively to Filipinos.”
As commander-in-chief, President Duterte is mandated by the Constitution to direct the armed forces to protect the Philippines’ marine wealth in the EEZ, he said.
Carpio’s statement was issued after Malacanang had said it will allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the WPS because they are “friends.”
“I don’t think China would do that (stop fishing in Philippine territory). Why? Because we’re friends,” President Duterte was quoted as saying when asked if the Philippine government would prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippine territorial waters.
Carpio, who has been vocal in calling the attention of the government on China’s activities within the Philippines’ EEZ and in the WPS, said that the phrase “national territory” includes “other submarine areas” which the Philippines has “sovereignty or jurisdiction.”
He cited anew that there already is a final decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 that the Philippines has jurisdiction over its EEZ in the WPS.
Thus, he stressed: “The Philippines has exclusive sovereign right to exploit all the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone. This sovereign right belongs to the Filipino people, and no government official can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent.” (with a report from Noreen Jazul)