SC voids 2005 joint exploration deal with China, Vietnam

SC voids 2005 joint exploration deal with China, Vietnam

MANILA – The Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional an agreement signed in 2005 for mineral “pre-exploration” in the South China Sea.

In a statement on Tuesday, the SC said it voted 12-2-1 to void the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) by and among China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation and Philippine National Oil Company, covering 142,886 square kilometers.

The tribunal said the tripartite agreement, signed on March 14, 2005, is unconstitutional for allowing wholly-owned foreign corporations to participate in the exploration of the Philippines’ natural resources without observing the safeguards provided in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State and exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State, according to the law

The case was filed by former Bayan Muna party-List representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño.

Noting that “exploration” pertains to a search or discovery of something in both its ordinary or technical sense, the SC ruled that the JMSU involves the country’s natural resources, particularly petroleum.

Under the JMSU, the parties will “engage in a joint research of petroleum resource potential of a certain area of the South China Sea as a pre-exploration activity,” a clear indication that the deal was executed for the purpose of determining if petroleum exists in the agreement area.

“That the parties designated the joint research as a pre-exploration activity is of no moment,” the SC ruled. “Such designation does not detract from the fact that the intent and aim of the agreement is to discover petroleum which is tantamount to exploration.”

The deal stated that the parties involved will “contribute to the transformation of the South China Sea into an area of peace, stability, cooperation, and development in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”

Sought for comment, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said his office has not received an official copy of the decision and would not react yet. (PNA)

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