China must recognize PH ownership of resources before joint exploration: Carpio

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 05 2018 11:11 AM | Updated as of Mar 05 2018 11:22 AM

Only PH can explore, exploit resources within EEZ - Carpio

MANILA - The Philippines may tap China as a private contractor in exploring oil reserves in the West Philippine Sea, but Beijing must first recognize that these resources are owned by Manila, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Monday.

The Department of Energy can talk to state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. about exploring the oil reserves in the West Philippine Sea, provided the company will "recognize that it’s our exclusive economic zone," said Carpio.

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"They will agree on the commercial issues because you will just follow the industry rate and you cannot go wrong there. The stumbling block has always been insistence of China that we recognize that they have sovereign rights," he told ANC's Headstart.

"We cannot do that anymore because there’s already a ruling and the Constitution says the State shall protect its marine wealth in its exclusive economic zone…and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively for Filipino citizens," he said.

A joint exploration between Filipino and Chinese companies in the once-disputed waters is "likely to happen" as talks are "moving forward" under President Rodrigo Duterte, Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque also claimed such an agreement between private companies is allowed under Philippine law because a 2004 Supreme Court ruling allowed the President to enter into agreements with foreign entities for large-scale explorations.

However, Carpio said the tribunal has yet to decide on a case about a joint seismic marine undertaking, because the La Bugal case which Roque cited only covered land exploration.

Carpio said under current laws, it is only the Philippines that can explore and exploit resources within its exclusive economic zone, and though it can tap foreign subcontractors, the company must "submit to Philippine laws."

He said the country tapped foreign-majority owned oil company Shell to be its service contractor in the Malampaya Natural Gas fields in Palawan.

Like in the case of Shell, the Philippines can pay China about 50 percent of the resources culled from the area of exploration if they acquiesce to such a set-up, said Carpio.

"If they recognize the ruling, they would be the best because then, they would also be happy because they are at least getting 50 percent. They may not own it anymore, but they will still profit from it as our contractor, as our agent…That would be a win-win solution," he said.