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Duterte welcomes joint PH-China probe into Recto Bank incident

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the offer of the Chinese Government to conduct a joint investigation on the Recto Bank incident that left 22 Filipino fishermen abandoned at sea after a Chinese vessel allegedly hit their boat.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed this in a statement shortly after the president’s arrival in Thailand on Friday night to attend the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

“The President wants the creation of a joint investigating committee that shall be composed of three groups of highly qualified and competent individuals, with Philippines and China having one representative each, and a third member coming from a neutral country,” the statement reads.

Panelo acknowledges that having separate investigations by the two governments will only raise doubts and accusations of bias, hence the decision on a joint probe.

“A joint and impartial investigation will not only promote the expedient resolution of the issue, it will also be in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which places paramount emphasis on the use of peaceful means to resolve international disputes,” Panelo explained.

He also clarified that agreeing to a joint investigation with China does not mean the Philippine government is “relinquishing any inch of our sovereign rights, nor compromising the rights of our twenty-two (22) fishermen.”

“We are demanding justice for our countrymen, and we are using all legal means toward that end,” Panelo said.

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Phl must reject ‘lopsided’, ‘unconstitutional’ verbal deal with China – Carpio

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes that the Philippines must set aside and reject what he calls as a “lopsided” and “unconstitutional” verbal agreement it forged with China.

The court official also expressed his agreement with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. when the latter said in an interview that only the Philippines is allowed to fish in Philippine waters.

Justice Carpio, in a statement, said there is no official policy that allows China to fish in Reed Bank (locally known as Recto Bank).

“Secretary Locsin knows that there is no recorded minutes of the so-called verbal agreement between President Xi and President Duterte allowing the Chinese to fish in Reed Bank in exchange for Filipinos fishing in Scarborough Shoal,” said Carpio.

The Senior Associate Justice added, “Any such verbal agreement, if confirmed by the Philippine government, will bind the Philippines to allow the Chinese to fish in Reed Bank for as long as China allows Filipinos to fish in Scarborough Shoal.”

Carpio also underscored the difference between Reed Bank which is 8,660 sq. km in area, and Scarborough Shoal which is only 150 sq. km in area; emphasizing that “Filipinos can fish only outside the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, not inside the lagoon which is the rich fishing area.”

He also noted that China has the largest fishing fleet in the world with huge modern trawlers, comparing it with the Philippines whose Filipino fishermen only have wooden boats with outriggers. 

“The Chinese can deplete the fish in Reed Bank very quickly,” he stressed.

Justice Carpio also pointed out that the verbal agreement, aside from being clearly against the Constitution, is so lopsided it should be rejected by the Philippine government.

Reed Bank is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Under the Constitution, the use and enjoyment of the fish and other natural resources within Philippine EEZ is reserved exclusively for Filipinos,” Justice Carpio further said. (with reports from Mai Bermudez) /mbmf

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China rejects third-party probe on Recto Bank incident – Palace

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – China has rejected the proposed involvement of a third party in the investigation into the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank), Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Beijing does not see any need for a third-party investigation as the issue can be resolved through the joint probe.

“Nag-offer sila ng joint investigation, tapos inaccept ni presidente, tapos may third party, ang sabi naman nila, wag nang third party, kailangan tayo na lang mag-usap duon,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he is okay with having a third-party probe even after as he accepted Beijing’s offer for a joint investigation into the maritime incident.

On June 9, a Chinese boat rammed into a Filipino fishing vessel and abandoned its 22 crew members at sea.

The president described the incident as a little maritime accident, saying the Filipino boat was sideswiped and not rammed.

Although a preliminary report was already handled by the agencies tasked to investigate the matter, Duterte said he has yet to reveal its contents as he is still awaiting China’s official report on the incident.

READ: Duterte says Filipino fishing boat was sideswiped, not rammed in Recto Bank

Panelo said China also suggested the creation of respective task groups which would meet and exchange results of separate investigations conducted.           

“Dapat immediately, since they are suggesting the creation of task force, dapat mag-create na tayo ng task force,” he said.

“In fact, I intend to tell the president pagdating mamaya sa cabinet meeting,” he added.

The Palace official, however, stressed the Philippine could always push for a third-party probe should the two countries fail to agree on the findings.

He also believes there will be no serious disagreements between the two parties.

“Kasi sinabi na nila na kailangang maresolve na natin ito. Nasisira ang relasyon natin dahil dito, kailangang ayusin na natin ito. Yung sinasabi mong mag-iinsist, di tayo magi-insist. Isa-suggest natin, kung halimbawang di tayo magkasundo, pwede ba humanap tayo ng 3rd party,” he said.

Panelo also allayed fears on China’s possible manipulation of probe results, vowing to hold accountable the Chinese crew should they be found guilty of abandonment charges. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Panelo clarifies Duterte’s remark on PH sea zone

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday (June 27) clarified President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark on allowing Chinese fishers to trawl within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Panelo told reporters at a Palace press briefing that Duterte’s statement was misconstrued because the latter meant that the government of China will not allow its fishermen from doing that because of Manila and Beijing’s friendship.

“Hindi gagawin ng China na pumasok doon, in other words, it is not necessary to prevent them from fishing because they will not do that. In other words, why should I prevent somebody to do something if he is not going to do that,” he said.

Panelo added that he already confirmed with the President if that indeed was what he meant with his statement.

Duterte earlier said that China would continue to trawl within the Philippines’ exclusive sea zone because of the warming ties between the two countries.

Duterte also said that Manila and Beijing have mutually agreed to nationals from both countries to fish in the contested waters.

The Chief Executive’s statement drew criticisms, with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Vice President Leni Robredo saying allowing Chinese fishers to trawl within the country’s EZZ is unconstitutional.

But Panelo said Duterte’s statement had been misinterpreted.

The Chief Executive himself also explained his earlier comment, saying the Philippines alone cannot ban China from trawling in the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sabi nila, you have to ban China. I-prohibit mo. Kung i-prohibit ko, how do I enforce my desire? Takot nga ang America, ayaw ngang mag-confront tapos ako pa ang ipusta nila. Gusto talaga nilang mapasubo ako,” the president said during a Presidential Security Group event on Wednesday.

Panelo also assured the public that Duterte will not waive the country’s rights over its exclusive sea zone, noting that the president even urged China to join in the finalization of a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea following an allision incident of Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank).

The Palace official also dared administration critics to file an impeachment complaint against Duterte in relation to the issue.

“Kung naniniwala sila na may ginawa siyang impeachable ground, eh di mag-file but you cannot stop the president from doing measures that to his mind is the correct way to obey the constitution command to protect and preserve the people,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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