Joint exploration in WPS not new: Palace

MANILA MalacaAang on Monday stressed there is nothing new about joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying other countries, including China and Vietnam, have joint ventures in the disputed area.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque showed to the media several joint exploration and exploitation agreements involving foreign countries within different executive economic zones.

All these joint exploration means that if we ever enter into joint exploration and development, it would not be the first in the world, Roque told the media.

Aside from Vietnam and China's China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), other countries that have existing joint exploration agreements include between Petro Vietnam and Oil and Natural Gas Commission of India, Iceland and Norway, Kenya and CNOOC, and New Zealand as well as Papa New Guinea with CNOOC.

Roque said even Malaysia's Petronas and Petroleum Brunei that have also claims in the South China Sea have existing joint exploration agreements with other foreign firms while Indonesia has a joint exploration development and operation agreement with Hasky Canada, Mandura and CNOOC.

Roque said the Philippines has no exploration agreement yet with any Chinese entity but the country can look at the treaty between Vietnam and China as a model.

In fact, we could look at Vietnamese, Chinese treaty on joint exploration and development as a model for possible relationship between the Philippines and China, he said.

Contrary to Justice Antonio Carpio's claim that joint exploration in WPS has no legal basis, Roque said Supreme Court's (SC) overwhelming 10-4 ruling in the case of La Bugal vs. Ramos supports the government's proposed joint ventures with Chinese firm even in area where there is only sovereign rights.

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, he explained.

Roque said Carpio voted against the 2004 SC decision but the voting pattern of which was overwhelmingly in favor of allowing foreign corporations to participate in exploration of natural resources.

The voting was 10 in favor, 4 against. That should be crystal clear, Roque said.

He clarified, however, said any joint exploration should be supported by a bilateral treaty between the states.

Roque also explained the government does not compromise country's sovereignty under the Philippines' plan to enter joint exploration with China.

This is actually a common accepted practice for sovereign states to enter into these treaties allowing joint development and different corporations to enter into service contracts, Roque said.

He explained the joint exploration ventures will cover two areas under Service Contracts 57 and 72 with the former not within the disputed territory and the latter covered by area where China and the Philippines have overlapping claims.

Roque said foreign corporations are also absolutely required to comply with the Philippines' mining laws and other related policies.

Source: Philippine News Agency