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China can fish in Philippines' exclusive waters, Duterte says

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China can fish in parts of the South China Sea where the Philippines holds exclusive rights, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said Wednesday

[MANILA] China can fish in parts of the South China Sea where the Philippines holds exclusive rights, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said Wednesday, despite warnings from other officials this would be unconstitutional.

Mr Duterte is giving China this "privilege" out of friendship, and because of funding and trade relations extended by Beijing to his government, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in an interview with local radio dzMM.

"We have negotiations with China that will help develop our country. We are benefiting from them, so maybe what the president wants is that we also give a little of what's ours," Mr Panelo said.

Mr Duterte will never yield his country's sovereignty, he said.

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Other government officials have warned that allowing China to fish in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone violates the Constitution. Senator Panfilo Lacson, for instance, said in a tweet Wednesday that friendship is not a basis for giving up exclusive economic rights.

Mr Duterte doesn't have authority to waive economic rights to areas that can be utilized only by Filipinos under the Constitution, top court judge Antonio Carpio said in a statement today.

"No government official can waive this sovereign right of the Filipino people without their consent," the magistrate said.

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