Maritime expert urges Congress to pass law on govt-to-govt exploration of mineral resources in South China Sea
A maritime expert from the University of the Philippines urged on Monday Congress to pass a law for a government-to-government joint exploration and development of mineral resources in the Philippines, including those in the South China Sea.
In the virtual "Tapatan" media forum, Jay Batongbakal said this is important to ensure that there is no misinterpretation that the country is waiving its exclusive sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
"At minimum, we really need new legislation to create room for joint exploration and development with another country at the state level because our current system is based on the assumption that the partner is a private sector or corporation, which means it will also be subject to Philippine laws, rules and regulations. And now, this kind of situation is obviously not the kind of situation that China wants to be in place when it comes in as a joint development partner," he explained.
The UP professor said this could be the time to think it over since the prices of oil in the international market is not that high.
"It's a kind of disincentive for us to really push hard and fast on joint exploration because it's not urgent and the market need is basically not favorable right now," he said.
He underscored the need for passing a new law on joint exploration amid the territorial dispute with China.
Batongbakal said the legislation would "ensure no prejudice because one of our biggest problems is entering into a joint development agreement might be seen as either an acquiescence or acceptance of China's claims or a waiver of our exclusive sovereign rights."
He said the law would make it very clear that the agreement the country would enter into would be a more pragmatic measure and would serve as a protection for the Philippines.
The law expert also said that since the joint exploration would involve two governments, it could be considered a treaty that needs a special legislation to be implemented.
"We also have to have that kind of legislative framework ready before we really conclude joint exploration, development with other state. It doesn't have to be China," he added.
The Philippines and China have agreed to conduct joint exploration in the South China Sea. However, due to their respective claims, the plan has not pushed through yet.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea even those areas within the exclusive economic zone of other countries, like the Philippines. Celerina Monte/DMS