Hontiveros: Proposed oil exploration with China ‘treacherous’
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday criticized the administration’s plan to pursue joint oil and gas exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is preposterous and treacherous,” Hontiveros said in a statement. “It reverses our historic victory at The Hague and signs away Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.”
Hontiveros was referring to the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague affirming the rights of the Philippines over its 370-km exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, which it said China had violated.
Hontiveros made her statement in reaction to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s announcement on Tuesday that China had expressed interest in a 60-40 exploration deal in the disputed waters.
Cayetano said a framework allowing Manila to enter into the deal with Beijing without surrendering the country’s territorial rights was in the pipeline.
Hontiveros said the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) plan was absurd as it would recognize China’s claim over parts of the West Philippine Sea, nullifying the PCA decision.
“In case the DFA failed to read the ruling, the UN decision is very clear: We have sovereign rights to access offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, within our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. We don’t share ownership of the West Philippine Sea with China,” Hontiveros said.
She said that such a proposal from the DFA was exactly why she feared the lack of transparency on foreign policy by the Duterte administration.
Hontiveros has repeatedly called for a foreign policy audit of the Duterte administration as she continues to assert the role of the Senate in the foreign policy direction of the country.
“This is precisely the reason why I am calling for a foreign policy audit, to determine if the government’s foreign policy thrust and direction are still compatible with our sovereignty and security interests, and whether or not they are still in compliance with our international obligations, particularly the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea,” she explained.
“With this latest development, I hope a parliamentary oversight of the executive’s foreign policy can be conducted the soonest,” she added.
The senator urged the DFA to junk the joint exploration plan with China and instead enforce the PCA ruling.
“The people want a DFA that is courageous in asserting our historic victory at The Hague, not a foreign affairs office that the public can’t distinguish anymore from the Chinese Embassy,” she said. /atm/ac
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