A sea change: No more arrests of foreign poachers in EEZ?


Posted at Jun 28 2019 08:51 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2019 11:24 AM

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Can President Duterte unilaterally allow Chinese poachers to fish in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone without the concurrence of Congress?

According to Ma. Soledad Mawis, dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines College of Law, this is a question that needs answering after the President said he will not stop Chinese fishermen from poaching in the Philippines.

Mawis said that before Duterte was elected, foreigners who poach in the Philippines' EEZ were arrested. "Ngayon iba na ang sistema. Parang pinapayagan na kaya siguro nagkaroon nang ganitong kalaking usapin kasi ang pinapasok na ay 'yung exclusive economic zone," she said.

"Kaya nga ho exclusive dahil para sa mga Pilipino," she added.

The law dean said a country cannot just allow foreign poachers to enter its waters without some form of agreement.

"Kung ang may-ari mismo ang nagbukas at pinapasok, hindi mo na masasabing intrusion 'yun dahil willingly pinapasok. But the question is - on the strength of a person alone, pwede bang 'O sige, pasok kayo.' Hindi ba dapat 'yan may proseso? Di ba dapat 'yan may pormal na usapin? O hanggang saan dahil dangerous din 'yun," she asked.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, has said that Duterte could face a fresh impeachment complaint if government agencies implement his pronouncement that Chinese fishermen can venture into Manila's waters.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said Duterte can be impeached if he fails to protect the Philippines' national territory.

The President on Thursday threatened to jail his critics should they file an impeachment case against him.

Mawis said arresting impeachment filers can only be done if the person swears to a verified complaint that is full of falsehoods.

"Hindi po pwedeng 'dakpin' agad dahil lang nag-file siya. Mayroon tayong proseso, at mayroon itong panunumpa. Siyempre kung ikaw ay nanumpa at lahat nang iyong sinumpaan ay pawang kasinungalingan, maaari kang idemanda dahil nagsinungaling ka under oath pero may proseso yan," she said.