Malacañang on Friday denied that a fishing agreement was entered into by President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This contradicted an earlier statement of a previous Palace spokesperson in 2019 who claimed that the deal was “informal” but “binding.”
According to Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a vocal critic of Duterte’s handling of the West Philippine Sea issue, the Chinese government is not taking the Philippines’ diplomatic protests seriously because of its fishing agreement with Duterte.
Diplomatic protests were recently filed by the Philippines against the presence of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, an area within the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which it enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources.
“There is no truth to the speculation of a purported ‘verbal fishing agreement’ between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jin Ping, nor that Chinese vessels were encouraged to stay in West Philippine Sea despite the diplomatic protests and strongly-worded statements of Philippine government officials,” said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
“This is without basis and is quite simply, conjecture,” he added.
Roque’s recent statement contradicts a previous remark by his predecessor, former Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who claimed that the verbal fishing agreement between Duterte and Xi is binding because there is mutual consent from both parties.
“Alam mo, kahit sa batas, kahit na verbal eh valid and binding iyon basta mayroong mutual consent ang dalawang partido. Kaya nga agreement eh,” Panelo said at a press briefing on July 1, 2019.
“Palagay ko walang pinirmahan. Parang ano lang iyon eh, parang nag-usap lang sila. Alam ko kung minsan, ang mga heads of state, may mga word of honor iyong mga iyon eh,” he added.
Roque has not responded to questions asking him to clarify the apparent contradiction between his statement and that of Panelo.