By Mario Casayuran
Former Senate President and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile said on Friday launching a joint exploration with China for gas and oil beneath the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is the better approach for the Duterte government in developing new energy sources.
Enrile emphasized that the Philippines cannot insist on its territorial rights over parts of the South China Sea (SCS) “because it would not be respected.”
The United Nations arbitral court had issued a decision rejecting China’s historical claim over most parts of the SCS and favoring the Philippine claim over parts of the Spratly island chain and the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
While the Philippine (Benham) Rise is the best chance of the country in boosting energy supply, it poses problems that the young generations of Filipinos have to face this century, he pointed out.
Enrile said the direction of President Duterte in proposing a joint exploration with China for hydrocarbons in the SCS “is correct.”
“We cannot insist on our rights. Yes, we have the rights but will those rights be respected by a country like China? My God, even if you put together Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and the rest, they cannot equal the firepower of China,’’ he said.
“The military power is not there. That is why the direction of President Duterte to do it diplomatically instead of raising the Philippine flag and say ‘this is my territory,’ the conciliatory and enter into a joint venture is the better approach,’’ he added.
China, according to Enrile, would not allow anybody to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves in the WPS because it needs that hydrocarbon reserve.
It is the biggest user of energy now in the world because of its burgeoning economy and is now even exploring even the Arctic Ocean for sources of energy, he said.
“Malampaya will be gone. Now, our best chance will be Benham Rise, but even that will entail a big, big amount of investment and we have to have a Navy to guard it. Otherwise, it will be taken away from us by force. Don’t kid yourself, resource control will become a bone of contention among countries in the world in the century,” he added.
Enrille emphasized that supply of energy is running out and the demand is rising with the economic ascendancy of China, India and other countries like Brazil and other areas.
“The supply from the ground is dwindling. This is where Russia will become a powerful country again because Russia has the biggest existing reserve,” he said.
“But even that will not be enough unless they can invent a new alternative fuel which America is trying to experiment (on) now,” he added.