MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday denied allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte made a “verbal fishing agreement” with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the claims as “conjecture” and “without basis.”
“There is no truth to the speculation of a purported “verbal fishing agreement” between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jin Ping, nor Chinese vessels were encouraged to stay in the West Philippine Sea despite the diplomatic protests and strongly-worded statements of Philippine government officials,” he said.
Roque said that a fishing agreement under the Philippine domestic laws can only be done through a treaty.
“Per Article 2 (1) (a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, a treaty is an international agreement concluded between States in written form,” he said.
“Clearly, a treaty must be in writing. No such treaty or agreement exists between the Philippines and China,” he added.
The Palace official, however, clarified that non-commercial fishing activities may be allowed in local waters as part of traditional fishing rights.
“The President does not condone unlawful commercial fishing by any state on Philippine waters,” Roque said.
“However, the President also recognizes that subsistence (non-commercial) fishing may be allowed as a recognition of the traditional fishing rights pointed out by the Arbitral Tribunal itself in its Award on Jurisdiction (para. 407) in the case between the Philippines and China,” he added.
Roque called on critics to “stop making malicious speculations and false claims made to pointlessly inflame the situation.”
“We ask everyone to just focus our time and effort on productive activities that will enable us to help one another at this time of the pandemic,” he said.