Joint exploration in West PH Sea constitutional – Palace

An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island in the West Philippine Sea, July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Rolex Dela Pena/Pool

MANILA – Malacañang on Saturday reiterated that joint exploration at West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is allowed in the 1987 Constitution.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement as critics of the Duterte administration, whom he described as acting like Supreme Court justices, continued to insist that the joint exploration violated the law.

Ang problema doon sa mga kritiko ng administrasyon nais nilang maging justices ng Supreme Court, maghintay muna po kayong maitalaga diyan at maghintay muna kayong magkaroon ng kapangyarihang gumawa ng desisyon,” Roque said in a briefing in Zamboanga del Norte.

[The problem with the critics of the administration is that they all want to be Supreme Court justices. Let’s just wait to be appointed there and wait to have the same power to make those decisions].

Roque again cited a 2004 La Bugal ruling which provides that the President may enter into agreements with foreign entities for large-scale explorations.

Malinaw po ang La Bugal, ang joint exploration po ay pinapayagan sa ating Saligang Batas basta alinsunod ito sa isang kontrata na nilagdaan ng Presidente at isusumite sa Kongreso [La Bugal is clear, joint exploration are allowed in our Constitution as long as it follows the contract signed by the President and submitted to the Congress],” Roque said.

He also insisted that joint explorations were “constitutional” in both disputed and undisputed areas.

Constitutional po ang mga joint exploration doon po sa area na walang dispute, kagaya ng [service contract area] 57 at doon sa area na mayroong dispute kagaya ng 72 [Joint explorations are constitutional in areas without dispute like 57 and areas with dispute like 72],” Roque said.

Roque also clarified anew President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement which likened the proposed joint exploration with China in the disputed territory to “co-ownership”.

Hindi naman niya sinasabi na magko-co-owner tayo. Kaya lang habang hindi natin rini-resolba pa iyong pagkakaiba, iyong pag-aangkinan ng teritoryo, ang tingin ng Presidente ay mas mabuti na makinabang na sa pamamagitan ng joint exploration [He didn’t say we would be co-owners. While we haven’t resolved our differences, our territorial dispute, the President thinks that it’s best that we can benefit from joint exploration],” Roque said.

Roque earlier said the Palace still trusts in China’s good faith commitment not to make new artificial islands in Scarborough Shoal.

Scarborough Shoal is claimed only by the Philippines and China while Spratlys Group of Islands where China started to build artificial islands even before Duterte came to office mid- 2016 are also claimed by other nations, Roque noted.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court on Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ case contesting China’s nine-dash line claim that covers nearly the whole of WPS which supposedly rich in oil and gas resources.

The same arbitral tribunal ruling also deemed illegal China’s moves to shut out other nations from the fishing grounds at Scarborough Shoal. With InterAksyon