MANILA--Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday dubbed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as "unpatriotic" for raising the possibility of China seizing Philippine gas fields.
Carpio last week warned that Beijing could take the country's gas reserves in Reed Bank if Manila is unable to pay its US$62-million loan for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
He cited a provision in the loan deal wherein the Philippines waived its immunity to its patrimonial assets and assets dedicated to commercial use.
"S'ya ang lumalabas na unpatriotic dito... Parang tinuturuan niya pa ang Chinese. Wala namang loopholes, binibigyan niya pa ng loopholes," Panel told ANC.
(He's the one who appears to be unpatriotic here. It's as if he's coaching the Chinese. There are no loopholes, but he's providing the loopholes.)
"Justice ka ng Supreme Court, dapat protective ka nga sa ating interes, parang kumakampi ka doon sa kabila in a way," he added.
(You're a justice of the Supreme Court, you should be protective of our interests, it's as if you're even siding with the other camp in a way.)
Panelo also insisted that "there is no collateral" in the loan agreement.
The deal, he said, merely allows the loan to be paid off with revenue from natural gas yields.
"Iyung natural gas na kinuha mo sa lupa, 'pag ibinenta mo nang may share ang gobyerno, iyun ang kukuhanin nilang kabayaran sa utang mo," he said.
(The natural gas that you got from the land, when you sell that in a way that the government would get a share, that's what they will get as payment for your loan.)
This agreement is not onerous because Manila "will never default" on its debt anyway, said the Palace official.
"Hindi ka magde-default kasi palaging kasama sa budget iyan," he said.
(You won't default because the payment is always included in the budget.)
The loan, he added, has an "low" and "inflexible" annual interest rate of 2 percent.
Reed Bank could hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2013 report from the US Energy Information Administration.
The loan agreement for the Chico River project could serve as the template of other deals, warned Carpio.
These loan agreements, however, were not made public because of confidentiality clauses, which according to Carpio, violate the Constitution.