Proposed joint venture with China may violate Constitution – SC justice
President Rodrigo Duterte will be violating the Constitution if he pushes through with his plan of going into a “joint venture” with China in the West Philippine Sea, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court warned Tuesday.
“The language of the Constitution is explicit that the exclusive economic zone [EEZ] is part of the national territory and that it should be for the enjoyment and exploitation exclusively of Filipinos alone,” Carpio said. “We cannot enter into joint development within the EEZ.”
According to Carpio, the government may enter into contracts with other countries, but such contract cannot be done through sovereign agreements – that is, the other country may act only as a contractor, not as a sovereign entity.
“The EEZ is exclusively ours,” he said. “We can ask other countries if they have the technology. But we don’t give up our sovereign rights because that is prohibited under our Constitution.”
He said a joint development within the country’s EEZ, particularly the Scarborough (or Panatag) Shoal and Benham (or Philippine) Rise would be tantamount to conceding sovereignty to China.
“Scarborough Shoal is defined as part of the Philippine territory under our domestic law,” he said. “Of course we cannot concede any of our sovereign rights or sovereignty of our Scarborough Shoal.”
“We also have sovereign rights over Benham Rise because we have exclusive right to explore and exploit the oil, gas and other mineral resources in that area which has been confirmed by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf [CLCS] as part of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines,” he added.
But if the Duterte administration would insist on pursuing a joint exploration with China, he suggested that the deal should “avoid language that implies that we recognize sovereignty of China or sovereign right of China over the areas in the West Philippine Sea.”
Carpio pointed out that the country’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) only resolved the maritime dispute but did not settle the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, particularly on Scarborough Shoal, due to lack of jurisdiction on the matter.
Last year, the PCA affirmed the major submissions of the Philippines, including the declaration of China’s nine-dash line as contrary to United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).
The award also affirmed Philippines’ stance that China’s move to shoo away Filipino fishermen at the disputed Scarborough Shoal was also unlawful.
It also declared that the Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, and Reed Bank as “part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”
Reed Bank is said to be a territory rich in oil and natural gas that could be as a possible alternative for the Malampaya gas fields.
Carpio made his statements after Duterte, during his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) that the Philippines and China could conduct a joint exploration in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
Saying Manila cannot wage a war against militarily superior Beijing, Duterte said the two countries’ joint exploration activities could be similar to a “joint venture.” /atm
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