If other countries had done it with China, why can’t the Philippines?
In a press briefing on Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said many countries had done joint oil explorations with China, including Vietnam and Brunei – both claimants to parts of South China Sea. Such a practice had been “commonly-accepted” among different countries, he added.
“All this joint exploration agreements means that, if ever we enter to a joint exploration and development agreement, it wouldn’t be the first in the world as in fact CNOOC [China National Offshore Oil Corp.] already has existing joint exploration agreements even with Vietnam,” Roque said in a press briefing. “And in fact, we could look to the Vietnamese-Chinese treaty on joint exploration and development as a model for possible relationship between the Philippines and China.”
Roque was referring deal between Vietnam and China covering the Beibu Gulf, a shared territory between the two countries and dubbed by experts as a “model” in handling territorial and maritime disputes.
Roque made the statement days after President Rodrigo Duterte likened the proposed deal to explore and exploit oil resources in the controversial West Philippine Sea as “co-ownership” with China.
Roque also disputed the claim of Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio that the high tribunal would not “sanction” joint exploration within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The spokesperson insisted that the foreign companies “can participate in exploration and exploitation, provided, as the decision says, we have ultimate control over the exploration and the development.”
Citing the 2004 SC decision on La Bugal vs. Ramos case, Roque said that the Philippines could allow the exploitation, development, and utilization of natural resources.
Carpio earlier said that the decision pertains “to the extraction of minerals on land territory,” not the “extraction of oil and gas” in the country’s EEZ.
“It is for the State to determine if it wants to share what should otherwise be exclusive,” Roque said “So, if the ruling applies to land territory, I don’t think there is any reason for it not to be applicable in an area where there [are] only sovereign rights.”
The decision upholds the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 and foreign companies to conduct joint exploration with the Philippines to explore and exploit natural resources as long as the government has full control over the activity.
“The key is that the state must exercise full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilizations of natural resources,” Roque said. “However, the court was careful to state that full control and supervision cannot be taken literally to mean that the state controls and supervises everything down to the minutest detail and makes all required actions.” /atm