By Genalyn Kabiling
China is unlikely to deplete the marine resources in the South China Sea even if given fishing access to the disputed territory, according to a Palace official.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo has explained that the disputed waterway is vast and the fishes could reproduce and replenish their numbers.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier questioned the alleged lopsided fishing arrangement between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The magistrate warned that China might take all the fish if their fishermen would be allowed access to the resources in the West Philippine Sea.
“Paano niya nalaman iyon na mauubusan tayo ng isda doon? Bakit iyon bang isda hindi na nagre-reproduce kapag kinuha mo? [How did he know that we will run out of fishes? Don’t fishes reproduce if you get them?],” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing Tuesday.
“Kung araw-araw din nagre-reproduce, bakit naman … eh ang lawak ng dagat. Ewan ko ba kung saan basis niya iyon [If they can reproduce everyday, why will.. the ocean is vast. I don’t know his basis,” he added.
In his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte has ruled out the use of force to drive out China from the disputed territory to avoid violence. He said he was performing a “delicate balancing act” between avoiding an armed conflict and protection of the country’s territorial waters and natural resources
“A shooting war is grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake. I am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows and more orphans, should war, even on a limited scale, breaks out,” he said.
He said the country owns the West Philippine Sea but China claims the property and is “in possession.”
He also justified the country’s mutual fishing agreement with China in the West Philippine Sea to prevent an escalation of conflict in the area. Duterte claimed that he has invoked the “traditional fishing rights” that permit fishermen to venture into the territory.
“China and everybody recognizes traditional fishing rights for the natives who were there even before the creation of republics and governments. That law is a humane law,” he said.