Sotto urges Palace: Explore economic options in addressing PH-China sea dispute
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday urged Malacañang to explore the feasibility of starting oil exploration studies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to underscore the country’s 2016 arbitral victory and affirm Manila’s resolute claim over the contested area.
In a statement, Sotto urged the Palace to look at economic options as an “alternative response” to the continuing maritime conflict between the Philippines and China.
“The public discourse over the WPS [West Philippine Sea] boils down to one thing: While the United Nations ruled in our favor, the ruling cannot be put in force because of the absence of an international body that would enforce it. But we can use this arbitral victory to our advantage,” he said.
In 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognize.
The Department of Energy, according to Sotto, can pursue proposals to conduct exploration activities in the contested waters and open the initiative to private investors and even other nations on a 60-40 joint agreement.
“Hindi naman tayo pwedeng pagbawalan ng China kung gusto nating i-explore ang natural and mineral resources sa ating EEZ dahil atin iyon, pagmamay-ari natin iyon. Kung interesado ang China, pwede naman silang maging joint partner natin pero 60-40 ang hatian dahil tayo ang may-ari nung area,” the Senate president said.
(China should not bar us if we want to explore natural resources in our EEZ because it’s ours, we own it. If China is interested, they can become a joint partner but the sharing should be 60-40 because we own that area.)
“Huwag nating sayangin ang economic opportunity na available sa atin [Let’s not waste the economic opportunity that is available to us]. Our government leaders should start scouting for investors who are willing to pour in funds to explore the rich aquatic resources in the area, there are oil and gas reserves and other natural resources in the depths of these waters,” he added.
Further, he said that political differences regarding the country’s maritime dispute should be set aside.
“Unahin natin ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan, maghanap tayo ng paraan na magamit ang ating panalo sa UN para magkaroon ng karagdagang kita ang ating gobyerno na magagamit nito para mapagbuti ang social services,” Sotto added.
(Let’s prioritize the welfare of our countrymen, let us find ways to use our win in the UN to augment government resources that we can use to improve our social services.)
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