Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio
By Junex Doronio
MANILA — HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL for retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who has considered positive signs when China reportedly stated that it would not stop Philippine exploration activities in Reed Bank on the disputed South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
“The Chinese response has been very encouraging. China stated that it would not stop the exploration activities of the Philippines in Reed Bank because China and the Philippines have arrived at a consensus on the matter, referring to the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and TOR (Terms of Reference). This is very unlike the Chinese reaction to Vietnamese and Malaysian exploration activities in the latter’s EEZ in the South China Sea,” Carpio said on Wednesday in the online Pilipinas Conference organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.
The respected retired magistrate expressed hopes that the maritime dispute being resolved peacefully “to the satisfaction of all disputant states” if Beijing pursues and sticks to a similar memorandum of agreement (MOA) and TOR it signed with Manila.
“The MOU and TOR arrangement will satisfy the objective of the Philippines to preserve its sovereign rights in the EEZ in the West Philippine Sea while allowing China through its state-owned enterprise CNOOC and CNOOC’s partners to get 40 percent of the net proceeds of the gas in Reed Bank. It will be a fair and just arrangement satisfying China’s objective of a win-win solution in the South China Sea dispute,” Carpio noted.
He described it as a “soft admission” by China of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.
“While China in the past has refused to abide by the arbitral ruling, recent developments indicate that there may be light at the end of the tunnel,” Carpio further observed.
It can be recalled that the Philippines and China in 2018 signed an MOU to cooperate in exploring oil and gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea under the Philippine service contract system, followed by the signing of the TOR in August 2019.
Carpio disclosed that a third and final agreement, a commercial one, should have been signed last March 2020 in Manila between Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Forum Energy, holder of service contract 72 from the Philippine government to extract gas in the Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
“That commercial agreement would have been vetted by Philippine and Chinese officials. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic aborted the meeting in Manila and no new meeting has been scheduled to date,” Carpio lamented.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has lifted a moratorium on exploration activities in the Reed Bank.
The retired SC justice also expressed hopes that the same MOU and TOR would be offered to other claimant states Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Indonesia.
“If China pursues and sticks to the MOU and TOR arrangement, the maritime dispute in the entire South China Sea will be settled peacefully to the satisfaction of all disputant states,” Carpio said. (AI/MTVN)