China-PH sea exploration not a surrender, says party-list lawmaker
Joint exploration between China and the Philippines of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea will be a constitutional exercise of sovereignty and “not surrender,” according to Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque.
Roque said in a statement on Thursday that a mutual agreement between the two countries for the development of minerals, oil and other resources is allowed under the 1987 Constitution and international law.
“Entering into mutual agreements with respect to natural resources is an exercise of state sovereignty, and not its surrender,” he said.
Roque cited Article XII Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that “the President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country.”
“The idea of coming to mutual agreements over natural resources is constitutional and has been beneficial in the past,” Roque said.
He said the Supreme Court also ruled in La Bugal-B’laan v. Ramos that agreements involving either technical or financial assistance actually permit “service contracts” subject to various safeguards.
“Under these agreements, foreign corporations may act as contractors, providing capital, technology and technical know-how and managerial expertise, while the government exercises control and supervision over the operation,” he said.
Roque said one of the fundamental principles and purposes of the UN Charter was to develop friendly relations among states and achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.
“As a matter of principle, it is important to consider that international cooperation and resource sharing is a common practice, and even encouraged to avoid tension among states,” he said.
“Under the rules provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), states have repeatedly signed maritime boundary treaties to negotiate maritime boundaries with their neighbors to prevent future disputes from arising,” Roque said.
Independent foreign policy
He maintained that joint exploration between the Philippines and China did not contradict the independent foreign policy touted by the Duterte administration.
“An independent foreign policy demands that we ask ourselves a very simple question: Is it in the interest of the State to pursue such an action? At the moment, my answer would be yes,” he said.
“While some of us can wait for another 10, 20, or 50 years to resolve a territorial dispute that has existed for decades, many Filipinos still suffer in poverty because of the lack of resources and opportunities in our country,” he said.
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Sta. Romana earlier said the Philippine government was “seriously studying” the possibility of a joint exploration with China of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters in the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
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