At least three senators are amenable to China’s willingness to conduct a 60-40 joint exploration of natural resources with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea as bared by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, but some senatos wanted further study on the offer.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III considered China’s recent statement on the possibility of joint exploration as a recognition of the country’s jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zones in the West Philippine Sea.
Under existing laws, the Philippines will take a bigger chunk in revenues from the exploration.
“Yes, it is [acceptable]. It means China is accepting the fact na lamang tayo
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the sharing is more than acceptable as it complies with what is stated in the Constitution.
“More than acceptable as the 60-40 ratio complies with the requirements of the Philippine Constitution on foreign investment. It is practical and sensible to enter into a joint exploration with China,” said Lacson.
Admitting that the Philippines does not have the resources nor the technology to do the exploration alone, the offer is a welcome development. He said the West Philippine Sea is so rich in oil and natural gas and other resources.
“it is time to make use of these natural resources to uplift the lives of our people. It could also provide us the wherewithal to pursue massive infrastructure development to further enhance investments,” Lacson also said.
Senator Ralph Recto said the agreement “sounds good to me. I hope it’s true.”
Meanwhile, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the specific area must first be outlined before he can comment on the issue.
Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he will also study the issue first.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said he believes a treaty must be crafted before any joint exploration could push through. He added that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations should start a hearing on the country’s deal with China for the public to know the real situation.
“What are our deals when it come to territory, economy... what are our deals in explorarions in our debts?,” he said.
“These are not clear, not transparent so these need to be clarified in the Senate, and we the senators and the public should judge our deals with them, are we the gainer or the loser here,” he added.
Aquino said the Senate would make sure that Filipinos are on the upside of the deals.
Senator Joel Villanueva said he does not see any problem with the joint exploration with China but added that details of the deal should be transparent.
He said the 60-40 sharing is consistent with existing law governing oil and gas exploration and utilization in the country and the Philippines has already entered into partnership with multinational companies under this arrangement such as the Royal Dutch Shell Company which has been extracting natural gas from Malampaya for decades.
“I don’t see any problem entering into a similar arrangement with China. But then again, the devil is in the details,” he said.
Villanueva expressed hopes that the Department of Energy will be vigilant in its job and submit proposed joint exploration contracts for notification of Congress and to inform citizens of the deals.
“I just want to make sure that any agreement entered into with China is purely for a beneficial bilateral business transaction and will not be used to compromise our economic and political sovereignty,” he said.