De Lima presses for Senate probe into Duterte’s fishing deal with China

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the Senate leadership to initiate an investigation in aid of legislation into the supposed fishing agreement entered into by Mr. Duterte with China to determine its legal force and effect.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution No. 64, asking the appropriate Senate committee to inquire into the existence of the alleged fishing agreement and determine its exact nature and parameters.

"There is an issue of whether the fishing agreement is an executive agreement or international treaty, and corollarily, on whether or not there is a need for Senate concurrence before it becomes valid and effective," she said.

"It behooves the Senate to ensure that all treaties and international agreements entered into in behalf of our country are in accordance with our Constitution and will redound to the benefit of our people," she added.

It may be recalled that Mr. Duterte admitted to entering into a "verbal fishing agreement" with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China in October 2016 in the aftermath of the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel last June 9.

Mr. Duterte even justified his verbal agreement with China during his fourth State of the Nations Address (SONA) last July 22 when he maintained that it is the best way to avert war over the West Philippine Sea, internationally referred to as South China Sea. Last July 29, Senator Francis Tolentino, a known administration ally, delivered a privilege speech "Protect Our Seas, Protect the Filipino Fishermen" where he defended Mr. Duterte's verbal agreement entered into with Chinese President Xi.

During the interpellation, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon argued that the Senate must first know the nature and details of the agreement and whether it is an executive or international agreement so the Senate can give its ratification or concurrence. The lady Senator from Bicol stressed the need for an official proceeding to verify the existence of the alleged fishing agreement, whether verbal or otherwise, and whether it complies with legal or constitutional requirements.

Echoing Drilon, De Lima said, "we must first know what the agreement is all about and the nature thereof, whether an executive agreement or international agreement, so as to determine the need for Senate ratification or concurrence conformably with the Constitution."

De Lima, a former justice secretary, maintained that under the Constitution, the President cannot unilaterally enter into a treaty or international agreement, which becomes valid and effective only if duly concurred in by at least two-thirds of its members.

"The power to bind the Philippines by treaty or international agreement is vested by the Constitution jointly in the President and the Senate," she stressed.

Source: Senate of the Philippines