The President has authority to enter into oral, written executive agreements: Panelo

“The agreement was made to maintain peace and order in the disputed waters while negotiations are ongoing,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said regarding the verbal fishing agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and China President Xi Jinping.

“The President, as the chief architect of our foreign policy, has the authority to enter into executive agreements, written or oral. Philippine jurisprudence or case law has long-recognized that such quintessential power may be exercised by the President even without the concurrence of Congress because executive agreements are usually less formal and deal with a narrower range of subject matters than treaties,” Panelo added.

He explained that conventions or high-level meetings among foreign leaders are useless if they cannot commit and bind their countries at the time of said engagements.

“As we previously stated, Article 12, Section 2 of the Constitution must be read not in isolation but in relation with Article 2, Sections 2 and 4 of the same instrument. The provision reserving the use and enjoyment of the nation’s marine wealth to Filipino citizens, must be read in relation to the prime duty of the President to serve and to protect the Filipino people, as well as to our country’s adherence to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations,” Panelo said.

“The President has already made it clear in his latest State of the Nation Address that as far as we are concerned, we, as the “owner” of the West Philippine Sea, are only granting fishing rights to China,” he explained.

Panelo said that the agreement was entered into not because of any threat or vitiation of consent, but because the President sees such arrangement as pragmatic which can keep at bay any conflict between two countries, while we gain a venue where we can assert our sovereign rights.

“The oral agreement was recorded by an appropriate officer during the bilateral meeting. The President was explicit about it. While he was Foreign Affairs Secretary, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had also made pronouncements before the public about it, saying that the Philippines and China “co-control” the disputed waters and that the fishermen should be free to fish therein. This representation touched on this subject in his press briefings. This Administration has been transparent as it can be,” he added.

“We will continue to fight for what is ours. And we will do so in a peaceful manner via one of the most effective modes of settling international disputes, through negotiations,” he said.