Group seek SC ruling on legality of joint exploration deal inked by Arroyo admin, China
MANILA, Philippines—Partylist and cause-oriented groups urged the Supreme Court to rule on a petition they filed in 2008 questioning the legality of the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) entered into by the previous administration with China and Vietnam.
In an urgent motion for immediate resolution, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said the high court should already act on the petition, which was already submitted to it for decision as early as 2010.
“It has been six years now since petitioners filed the instant case. Petitioners believe that the Honorable Court has to render its decision and resolve the issues, which continue to haunt us until now. Hence, this Motion for Immediate Resolution,” the motion said.
Colmenares, who was joined in the motion by former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, said a resolution of the case is very timely considering that the country is currently embroiled in a territorial and maritime dispute with China.
“The substantive issues in the present case are of overarching and paramount importance to the Philippines and the Filipino people, especially in light of our current territorial and maritime dispute with China,” it added.
Other petitioners in the 2008 case were Satur Ocampo, the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Women’s partylist groups; Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III and former Rep. and now Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III.
Named respondents in the petition were then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, her Foreign and Energy secretaries as well as the Philippine National Oil Company and the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation.
Colmenares said they have decided to call the high court’s attention even if the JMSU has already expired in 2008 out of concern that it could be used by China to strengthen its position in the ongoing territorial dispute and even in the case filed by the country before the arbitral panel in the Hague, Netherlands even if China refused to participate in the proceedings.
“We are asking the SC to rule against such a disadvantageous joint exploration agreement as the JMSU, so that China will not be able to use the Agreement, which practically gave it control of the exploration project, against our case before the Arbitral Tribunal of UNCLOS” Colmenares said.
“We believe it is important for the court to decide on the issue now that some public officials are entertaining forging another joint exploration with China. While we are for the peaceful resolution of the dispute with China, we must be wary of the proposed joint exploration between the Philippines and China on the disputed islands because as shown by our experience with the JMSU we were put at a disadvantage when the Philippine government allowed the Chinese to gather valuable data on the natural gas deposits in Recto Reed Bank and our other territories,” he added.
Earlier this week, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano, South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon and 1-BAP Rep. Silvestre Bello III aired their support to a proposal raised by Senator Francis Escudero calling for joint explorations by the Philippines and China on disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The lawmakers said this could help ease the tension brewing in the area brought by competing claims between the two countries.
Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also have separate claims on islets, reefs and shoals in the area.
But Colmenares, who served as the legal counsel of the petitioners in the 2008 case, said they would oppose any joint exploration if it would lead to the same disadvantage brought about by the JMSU adding that through the 2007 agreement entered into by the Arroyo administration, China learned of the “enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto Bank.”
“Through the JMSU, China learned of the enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto Reed Bank, for example just one field amounts to about 2.7-3.4 trillion cubic feet of this valuable resource. China is now hell bent on acquiring these rich natural gas deposits by hook or by crook as evidenced by its renewed aggressive stance in the area,” he added.
Under the JMSU, the Philippines, China and Vietnam through their respective national oil corporations agreed to conduct joint explorations of the disputed South China Sea but up to 80 percent of the JMSU site is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
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