Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal still legally binding: Palace

The “verbal” fishing deal made between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese nationals to fish within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is still “legally binding”, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark a week after Duterte bared that he had an agreement with Xi to allow Chinese to fish within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ if China allowed Filipinos to fish in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during their first bilateral meeting in October 2016.

In an interview at cable ANC television, Panelo described the agreement as an “informal agreement other than documented”.

Panelo, in a Palace briefing on Monday, said the agreement was likely “verbal” but it was still legally binding.

“Kahit sa batas, kahit na verbal eh valid and binding iyon basta mayroong mutual consent ang dalawang partido. Kaya nga agreement eh,” said Panelo, also the Presidential Chief Legal Counsel.

Asked if he believed Xi would hold on to his end of the deal, Panelo noted that there have yet to be reports of Chinese nationals fishing in the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea.

“Eh sa ngayon hindi naman niya ginagalaw ang Reed Bank, ‘di ba? Gaya ng pangako niya,” Panelo said.

Following calls by members of party-list group Bayan Muna for Malacañang to present the “complete text” of the supposed fishing deal between Duterte and Xi, Panelo said the Palace has long bared the existence of the agreement on several occasions.

“Kahit ako, sinasabi ko na iyan. Nagkakaroon ng usapan kaya nga okay na doon sa Scarborough eh,” Panelo said. PNA