By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV on Wednesday expressed belief a treaty must be crafted before any joint exploration agreement between the Philippines and China pushes through.
Aquino is referring to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s disclosure that China is willing to venture into a 60-40 joint exploration of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Cayetano said China’s sharing proposition is that 60 percent will go to the Philippines and the remaining 40 percent will go to China.
“Sa mga joint exploration, kailangan ng treaty (In joint explorations, there must be a treaty),” Aquino told reporters in an interview.
That is why he said the Senate foreign relations committee should start hearing the pending resolutions calling for an inquiry into the government’s deal with Beijing.
“Kailangang matuloy yan para malaman natin sa iba’t ibang mga larangan kung ano ba talaga yung mga deals natin sa China? Ano ba ang mga deals natin pagdating sa teritoryo? Ano ang deals natin sa ekonomiya? Ano ba ang deals natin sa exploration? Hindi malinaw at hindi transparent. Kailangan maging malinaw yan sa Senado at kaming mga senador at taongbayan ang maghuhusga kung itong deals natin sa kanila ay lamang tayo o dehado tayo dito. (It should push through so we would know what kind of deals are we entering with China? What are the deals we have with them in terms of territory? On economy? Deals on exploration? It is not yet clear and it’s not transparent. It should be clear to the Senate, to the senators and the people should be the one to judge whether these deals will benefit us or if it will put us in a disadvantage),” Aquino stressed.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed the latest development stating he finds the 60-40 ratio acceptable. Such proposal, he said, also attests that China recognizes the country’s sovereign rights over the disputed territory.
“Yes, it is (acceptable). It means China is accepting the fact na lamang tayo,” Sotto said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, for his part, said the ratio is actually “more than acceptable” as the 60-40 ratio complies with the requirements of the Constitution on foreign investment.
“It is practical and sensible to enter into a joint exploration with China.
First, we do not have the resources nor the technology to do it alone. Second, the West Philippine Sea is so rich in oil and natural gas and it is time to make use of these natural resources to uplift the lives of our people,” Lacson said.
“It could also provide us the wherewithal to pursue massive infrastructure development to further enhance investments,” added Lacson.
On the other hand, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said he wants the specific area of the joint exploration first be divulged. “The specific area must first be divulged before I can comment,” he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is skeptic as well: “Well, that sounds good to me. I hope it’s true.”