Robredo refutes Duterte: EEZ is for 'exclusive use of Filipinos'

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo said the Constitution clearly states that the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is for the “exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens,” refuting the statement of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte. 

On Thursday, June 27, Robredo was asked in a television interview to comment on a supposed agreement between Duterte and China's President Xi Jinping to allow both Filipinos and Chinese to fish within the Philippines’ EEZ. 

The Vice President said one only has to look at the term “exclusive” to know that Filipinos are supposed to be the only ones fishing within the country’s EEZ. (READ: Justice Carpio refutes Duterte gov't: China can't fish in PH)

“Iyon talaga sa term pa lang, kaya nga tinatawag na Exclusive Economic Zone kasi iyong ating Konstitusyon, iyong 1987 Constitution, very specific iyong probisyon ng batas na iyong Exclusive Economic Zone – for the exclusive use and enjoyment iyon ng Filipino citizens,” Robredo told GMA-7’s Unang Hirit.

(By just looking at the term, the reason why it is called the Exclusive Economic Zone because our Constitution, the 1987 Constitution, has a very specific provision saying the Exclusive Economic Zone is for the eclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens.)

“Kaya kapag sinabi mong papayagan mong mangisda doon iyong hindi mga Pilipino, labag iyon sa Konstitusyon. In fact, iyon din iyong isang kahilingan ng mga mangingisda, na sana nakakabuwelo din sila sa hanapbuhay doon kasi talagang talong-talo sila, talong-talo sila ng Chinese fishing vessels,” added Robredo.

(So when you say you're allowing non-Filipinos to fish there, that is against the Constitution. In fact, that is also the wish of our fishermen, that they be able to have their livelihood there because they lose to the Chinese fishing vessels.)

Section, Article XII of the Constitution says it is the job of the state to protect the country’s archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and EEZ and must “reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

Duterte had previously tagged as a “little maritime incident” a Chinese vessel’s sinking of a Filipino fishing boat at Recto Bank, which is part of the Philippines’ EEZ. 

This is despite the Chinese crew clearly leaving the 22 Filipino fishermen to fend for themselves in the open seas clinging to what was left of their sunken boat. The Filipino fishermen were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel. 

Robredo has long been critical of Duterte’s decision to downplay the Philippines’ tribunal victory against China on the latter’s false claim over the West Philippine Sea – a part of the South China Sea that the Hague tribunal ruled truly belongs to the Philippines – in favor of getting grants and loans from China. 

On Wednesday, June 26, Robredo thanked Vietnamese Ambassador Ly Quoc Tuan after his countrymen rescued the 22 Filipino fishermen. – 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.