Duterte should notify Congress on joint exploration contracts with China: expert

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2019 08:03 PM

MANILA - Under the Constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte should inform the Congress of every contract under a joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea, an expert said Thursday.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal cited Section 2, Article 12 of the Constitution, which states that "the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State.” 

The Constitution also reads that “the State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.”

The framework also requires the President to “notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution.”

“Iyong 60-40 deal naman is stated in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution. So that’s one. Second, it is supposed to be a contract signed by the President and he should report it to Congress, and third… the state, basically the Philippines, under that contract, retains full supervision and control of the activity,” Batongbacal said.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the petition questioning the Joint Maritime Seismic Understanding (JMSU), the tripartite agreement among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

“With JMSU actually is more of the political kasi the legal issues of the JMSU have not yet been decided by the Supreme Court. It’s still pending. So, you cannot really say there any legal rulings yet from which you can draw lessons,” Batongbacal said.

The Philippines is open to sharing oil resources in the West Philippine Sea with China as long as Manila gets the bigger share, Duterte earlier said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the “steering committee should prepare a substantive program on the matter,” when Duterte raised the possible joint gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea during their bilateral meeting in China last week.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana earlier said the Philippine National Oil Company and China National Offshore Oil Corporation will be part of a "working group," while Philippine and Chinese energy ministries and concerned agencies will be part of the steering committee.

- with a report from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News