NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/08 July) – Now, we understand why Chinese vessels crowd and are aggressively fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ): they are vested the license to do so emanating from President Duterte’s secret fishing deal with President Xi Jinping as early as 2016.
In forging the verbal agreement, which allows the Chinese to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the President eschews the common meaning, usage or understanding of the word “exclusive” which refers to something unshared, sole, complete, and – in the issue of EEZ, absolute right to use, exploit and develop the resources in the said area. Such right is sovereign that the country possesses in its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The EEZ is not, however, a territorial water where the country exercises sovereignty – the absolute power and authority to govern or impose its will in the area. Under UNCLOS, foreign countries are entitled to certain freedoms such as navigation, overflight, and to lay submarine cables and pipes and such legal activities related to said freedoms within the EEZ .The building of artificial islands and the exploitation of the resources beneath the seabed are reserved, however, to the coastal state with the EEZ sovereign right.
No matter the conflicting opinions, the deal has already assumed the mantle of national policy because the Chinese are undeniably fishing in the place and they have not been stopped by government authorities. This tolerance reflects the intent of the covenant.
Now that the secret is already made public by the President himself, it behooves for Congress, particularly the Senate to demand formal transmission of the agreement for its review to determine merits and to approve or reject it. If rejected, the Executive Department has no recourse but to stop the Chinese from fishing in our EEZ, mandating the AFP to do it. It has to act urgently and not wait for our fisheries resource depleted and ultimately destroyed by Chinese bullies.
The Executive’s long disgusting negligence and inaction on trespasses in our domain should stop. The defeatist perception that our security forces have no match to the Chinese’, and any move to protect our interest is suicide, should now end.
Why, should our military force protect the interest of the country only from weak aggressors?
If we continue to hold on to a negative attitude, we soon will lose everything.. We will never gain respect and support from the international community in our fight for justice and survival.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)