MANILA- Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque finds nothing wrong with the Philippines' possible partnership with China to jointly explore oil and gas reserves within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.
Roque, a lawyer for fishermen who China earlier barred from fishing in Scarborough Shoal off Zambales, said there is jurisprudence allowing joint exploration in Philippine territories.
“Ang batas po ngayon ay puwede ang joint exploration ng tanging yaman…’di lang sa EEZ kundi pati sa teritoryo mismo ng Pilipinas. ‘Di po teritoryo ang EEZ. ‘Yan po ay covered lamang ng tinatawag na sovereign rights,” said Roque, noting that several Supreme Court magistrates have clarified the matter in previous cases.
“Sabi nila (Supreme Court justices), puwedeng magkaroon ng joint exploration ‘di lang sa EEZ pati sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas provided this is in a written contract signed by no less than the President and a copy of the contract is submitted to Congress for its review,” said Roque.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Philippines and China are now working on entering a joint exploration agreement on natural gas deposits in the disputed waters, a pact being crafted amid warming ties between the two sides.
Roque also defended President Duterte from criticism for his alleged failure to enforce the Philippines’ victory in the arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea, saying the ruling on China’s historical rights over the disputed areas is “self-executory.”
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' EEZ in the South China Sea.
China has ignored the Philippines' legal victory and instead ramped up island-building and militarization activities in the disputed waters.