According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the oral agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping was duly registered by an agent and publicly revealed.
Panelo also said House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, as then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, made statements, stating that the Philippines and China co-control the disputed waters and that the fishermen should be free to fish in them. This representation touched on this topic in his press briefings. This administration was as transparent as it could be.
Panelo stressed that at the danger of being redundant, we reiterate: the agreement was made to keep peace and order in the disputed waters while negotiations are underway.
He added that President Duterte has the power to enter into executive agreements, whether written or verbal.
In a joint declaration, Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales stated that the 2016 arbitral decision upholding the claims of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea provided traditional fishing rights for several nations in the Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal, but only Filipinos are allowed to fish in their exclusive economic zone.
It can be recalled that Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales accused Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China’s ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua of committing offences against humanity in connection with Beijing’s operations to obtain control over most of the resource-rich South China Sea.
On the president’s statement that he has given China fishing rights, Panelo said this is in line with the constitutional regulations and adheres to public policy.
Panelo stressed that the President explained in his State of the Nation Address that they are worried that as the ‘proprietor’ of the West Philippine Sea, are only granting fishing rights to China.
The contract was concluded not because of any threat or vitiation of approval, but because the president considers such an arrangement as pragmatic that can maintain in check any conflict between two nations, while we achieve a place where we can assert our sovereign rights.