President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday night appealed to China to let Filipino fishermen “fish in peace” at the West Philippine Sea.
In his regular address to the nation, Duterte recalled telling Chinese President Xi Jinping that there is no reason to quarrel amid maritime dispute since Filipino fishermen just need something to eat.
“I told China, I know that it’s yours, according to you, I’ve heard that several times. But you must also have heard of the fact that people are hungry, ang Pilipino ay gutom and you are not oblivious to that fact so kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace,” Duterte said.
“Since there is no reason for trouble, if there is one brewing, you call our attention and we can talk immediately to solve the problem,” he continued.
Malacañang has previously denied a supposed fishing agreement between Duterte and Xi, contradicting the 2019 statement a government official said on allowing China to freely fish in the West Philippine Sea.
“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,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque’s statement contradicted the July 2019 remark of the then Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo who disclosed that the two leaders had a ‘mutual agreement, noting that Filipino fishermen can also fish on China’s teritory without them being shooed away.
“Alam mo, kahit sa batas, kahit na verbal eh valid and binding iyon basta mayroong mutual consent ang dalawang partido,” Panelo said during the July 1, 2019 press briefing.
“Palagay ko walang pinirmahan. Parang ano lang iyon eh, parang nag-usap lang sila,” he added.
Never campaigned to retake West PH Sea
At the same address, Duterte said he never promised Filipinos that he would retake the West Philippine Sea during his presidential campaign in 2016
“I never, never in my campaign as president, promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise that I would pressure China. I never mentioned about China and the Philippines in my campaign because it was a very serious matter,” Duterte said.
However, Duterte seemed to be contradicting himself as he mentioned during the 2016 presidential campaign that he will be riding a jet ski to plant a Philippine flag in the Spratlys island.