Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday that there’s nothing wrong with the government’s pursuit of joint exploration of natural resources with China in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
He believes that the Memorandum of Understanding forged by the two governments during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the country last week had safeguards to ensure that the sovereignty of the Philippines would not be compromised.
“I think we’re pretty safe. The government has included service contractors, so if we cooperate, if the cooperation with China on oil and gas activities will be through service contractors, we’re very safe,” he explained.
Carpio, a vocal advocate against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea, stressed that a service contract for the joint exploration of gas and oil in contested areas in the South China Sea could actually boost the country’s rights over its exclusive economic zones in the WPS.
“I don’t have any objection with that kind of arrangement because if China comes in through our service contractors, those service contracts expressly recognize that the area falls within Philippine sovereignty or sovereign rights,” he said.
The magistrate even suggested that the service contractor in the Philippines’ Recto Bank (Reed Bank) could tap a Chinese firm as a subcontractor
Pressed further on the issue, Carpio said the proposed 60-40 sharing scheme with Beijing in the possible exploitation of resources in WPS could likewise be pursued for as long as the government can again make sure that the country’s sovereignty would not be compromised.
“As long as the joint development complies with the Philippine Constitution and there is no waiver of our sovereign rights under the arbitral ruling, I have no objection,” he said in a text message.
Carpio, one of the five Supreme Court justices shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council for the vacant chief justice post, was referring to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in July 2016 in favor of the Philippines against China’s claims over South China Sea territories.
In the ruling, the PCA invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea.
It also held that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).