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Speaker Favors Joint Sea Exploration
January 4th, 2017 | 09:44 AM | 1587 views
Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez threw yesterday his full support to the Philippine government’s efforts to seriously study its possible joint partnership with China in the exploration of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS or South China Sea).
He expressed confidence that President Duterte, as chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, would ensure that the proposed Beijing-Manila joint venture would be mutually beneficial and would further promote the national interest.
“I have no objection because the President is doing everything for the common good of Filipinos and the country,” he said in a text message after Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana disclosed the possible joint exploration of natural resources in the disputed islands is being studied by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
For his part, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu reminded that “any joint exploration deal must be based on existing laws and should not jeopardize our sovereignty.”
“If sealed successfully, it would mark as one of the most dramatic foreign policy turnarounds in recent Philippine history and possibly provide an alternative source of Natural Gas from Malampaya which is projected to be depleted in 10 years. Natural Gas fuels the biggest power plants in our Province, Batangas, which supplies at least 60 percent of the power requirements of Luzon,” he said.
Sta. Romana said the proposed joint exploration may be timely, citing nearing depletion of the energy supply from the Malampaya gas fields. He said the government wants to know the available natural resources that could be extracted from the West Philippine Sea.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas joined the House leaders in supporting the proposed joint venture between China and the Philippines to ease the territorial spat in the disputed islands.
“It is a constructive diplomatic move that we can consider. If we find a deadlock with regards to our differing positions in West Philippine Sea, then let’s open other avenues where both parties can agree on and find a win-win arrangement. As long as it’s peaceful, equitable and constitutional, I think it would be beneficial to the Filipinos and all parties concerned,” he said.
But, Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin warned that the proposed joint exploration with China over the West Philippine Sea is tantamount to renouncing our country’s win in the Arbitral Tribunal last year.
“It sends a wrong signal as we are seen as appeasing China rather than making it accountable for violating our sovereignty with its continued build up of military infrastructures in the WPS. China will turn us into its puppet if we consider this rather pathetic proposal,” he said.
The UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China’s historic nine-dash line claim.
But while Duterte may be open to a possible joint oil exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President is imposing certain conditions.
Abella said any proposed exploration activities in the area must abide by the limitations of the country’s Constitution. Such mineral resource activities must also be limited to private business deals and not government-to-government transactions, according to Abella.
“Whatever exploration there will be, will have to be done not country to country, but with business to business,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing.
“All of these things must be done within constitutional limitations or definitions. So, the President has also said that he is going to open talks with the — with PROC and that they will discuss it,” he added.
Abella also said any joint exploration activity with China must be “beneficial” to the country. “Yung hindi tayo talo (We won’t be in a disadvantage),” he added.
Last month, the President announced he was willing to share oil in the West Philippine Sea with China despite an international arbitral decision claiming it as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Duterte likewise pledged that he would not abandon the country’s territorial rights in the area. He said he would eventually raise the arbitration ruling that favors the country’s territorial claims in his talks with China.
courtesy of MANILA BULLETIN
by Charissa M. Luci
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