Hilbay: Oil exploration deal with China unconstitutional
The government’s move to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to conduct joint oil and gas exploration with China might be “unconstitutional,” former solicitor general Florin “Pilo” Hilbay said on Monday.
“I would argue that it is unconstitutional because it is incompatible with the full control and supervision standard or clause,” the senatorial aspirant in the 2019 election said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Hilbay’s stance contradicts Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio’s stand that the Philippines was “safe” in signing the deal because it was compliant with the 1987 Constitution.
In a separate press release, Hilbay stressed that the government should not enter into a joint exploration deal that covers the West Philippine Sea (WPS) because it is clear that the Philippines owns the territory and should not be shared with anyone, especially with one claiming ownership over it.
“Malinaw na atin ang West Philippine Sea at labag sa Saligang Batas kung papayagan nating makisali ang China sa pagtuklas sa mga yaman nito gaya ng langis at gas,” he said.
(It is clear that we own the West Philippine Sea and it is against the Constitution if we allow China to jointly explore with us its natural resources like oil and gas jointly.)
During his time as solicitor general, Hilbay led the country’s legal team to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
In July 2016, the court ruled that Beijing’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea was invalid. China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines (the WPS), Vietnam and Taiwan.
Hilbay added that agreeing on a joint oil and gas exploration with China was tantamount to giving up the country’s win in The Hague.
“By signing MOU on joint oil and gas exploration with China, we are giving up our victory in the arbitral tribunal,” said Hilbay.
“The next generation will never forgive us for giving away the significant win in the PCA,” he added.
Last Nov. 19 to 20, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of 29 deals during the latter’s two-day visit to the Philippines. Among the deals sealed was the MOU for oil and gas development cooperation in maritime areas to be agreed upon. /ee
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