By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang assured that the Philippines’ proposed joint oil and gas exploration with China in the South China Sea has been scrutinized and that the country’s constitution will be upheld.
“We assure that any agreement that we will enter into with a foreign government or entity would stand the judicial scrutiny of both countries and its constitutionality, if challenged, would be upheld,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo issued the statement after senators proposed Senate Resolution No. 943 which aims to conduct an inquiry into the proposed joint exploration with China in the disputed waters.
“The Senate is free to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on a potential deal on oil and gas exploration with China,” he said.
He, however, said that any release of documents would be premature as a contract is yet to be signed between the two countries.
“Any demand for a release of documents pertaining thereto at this time, however, is premature and could be prejudicial to our country’s interests given that parties have yet to ink any agreement on the matter,” he said.
The Palace official also assured that the government will not jeopardize the country when entering into any agreement with foreigners.
He also said that the Palace respects the Senate as an independent branch but asked the Upper House to allow the Executive Branch to do its job in serving the people.
“We respect the Senate as an independent co-equal branch of government and welcome whatever congressional or legislative action its members may want to undertake,” Panelo said.
“In the same manner, we likewise expect respect from them by allowing us to do our job as we perform activities which are rightfully within the scope of executive faculty,” he added.
The agreement on the joint oil and gas exploration in the disputed South China Sea may be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit in Manila which begins today.
In March this year, Malacañang announced that Service Contract (SC) 57 and SC 72 are the areas where the joint exploration may take place. Malacañang earlier said that since SC 57 is under the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), China would have to comply with domestic laws.
Malacañang also said that there would be no problem if the Philippines decides to allow China to jointly explore, exploit, and develop areas under the EEZ because the government holds the sovereign decision to do so.
Last month, the Philippines signed a joint exploration deal with Israel’s Ratio Oil. Duterte said he was hoping that the joint exploration coul help ease the effects of inflation in the country.
Early this month, President Duterte said he would that the Philippines gets a larger share of the oil that may be found during the country’s planned joint exploration with China in the disputed South China Sea.