Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. on Monday said it is wrong to believe that joint explorations are compromising the country’s sovereignty, citing previous joint exploration agreements in other countries, including between Vietnam and China.
According to Roque, many countries had done joint oil explorations with China, including claimants to parts of South China Sea, such as Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam.
“[T]hey are wrong in saying it’s not allowed under our Constitution. And they are also wrong in saying that you’re compromising sovereignty. Our point being, it’s being done,” he said.
Roque added we could also look into the treaty between Vietnam and China as our model on joint exploration. Vietnam and China’s joint exploration deal covered Beibu Gulf, a shared area by two countries.
“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 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 said.
Roque issued his comment after Supreme Court (SC) Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio disputed Roque’s statement that the high tribunal affirmed joint exploration within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Carpio said that the ruling refers “to the extraction of minerals on land territory,” and not the “extraction of oil and gas” in the EEZ.
Roque said last week that the SC “sanctioned” joint exploration, citing the 2004 decision on La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association v. Victor Ramos case.
“The decision is correct, it’s about mining in land territory. But you see even if it is mining in land territory, the decision said, you could allow foreigners to engage in exploration and exploitation of mineral resources even in areas subject to complete sovereignty. And that is the decision of the Court. How much more in an area where there is only sovereign rights?”he said.
Roque added “it is for the state to determine if it wants to share what should otherwise be exclusive.”
“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 is only sovereign rights,” he said.
“The key is that the state must exercise full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilizations of natural resources. 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,” Roque said.
He added Carpio was only one of the four justices who dissented in the La Bugal case.
“On reconsideration, the Court came up with the majority opinion, saying ‘no.’ And as I said, you cannot be myopic about it; you cannot strangulate economic development because of myopic views.”