By FRED M. LOBO
Malacañang has assured that the cooperation agreement on oil and gas development signed by the Philippines and China only serves as a framework and is based on mutual respect of each other’s sovereignty and interest.
Safe and beneficial for the country, the Palace claimed.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the two governments merely agreed to establish an inter-governmental joint steering committee and inter-entrepreneurial working group to look into possible energy cooperation.
“The MOU does not create rights or obligations under international or domestic law which may delineate our territory or sovereign rights,” he assured anew.
Panelo branded as “premature, baseless, and unfair” the apprehensions raised by Vice President Leni Robredo and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on the government deal.
“The MOU does not create rights or obligations under international or domestic law which may delineate our territory or sovereign rights. The apprehensions of Mmes. Robredo and Carpio-Morales are thus more imaginary than real,” Panelo said.
Panelo explained that the MOU on cooperation on oil and gas development signed between the Philippines and China was “only an agreement to agree on certain things.”
PH and China agreed to establish an inter-governmental joint steering committee and inter-entrepreneurial working group to look into possible energy cooperation, he added.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio likewise said the (MOU) signed between the Philippines and China on joint exploration of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) appeared safe.
“(It) has safeguards to protect Philippine sovereignty,” he added.
“That’s okay because they (Chinese) are coming in through our service contractors,” Carpio said.
“I don’t have any objection with that kind of arrangement because if China comes in through our service contractors, those service contracts expressly recognize that the area falls within Philippine sovereignty or sovereign rights,” he added.
On the proposed 60-40 sharing scheme with China, Carpio said “that can be pursued for as long as the government can again make sure that the country’s sovereignty would not be compromised.”
“As long as the joint development complies with the Philippine Constitution and there is no waiver of our sovereign rights under the arbitral ruling, I have no objection,” he said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar also expressed no objection to the PH-China MOU on joint oil exploration.
Nothing objectionable at the moment, she said.
Villar, however, stressed the need for environmental protection at the Global Herald Forum and in a message to the newly launched One Voice Pilipinas Movement for Truth, Transformation, and Progress.
“Let us focus on environmental protection and community empowerment” she said.
May PAG-ASA party-list head James Layug called for “nationalistic economics” in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.
“Make it more beneficial for Filipinos than for foreigners,” he urged.
Malacañang, citing the need for “peace, stability, and development in the region,”
identified China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the Philippine National Oil Company – Exploration Corporation as designated representatives to the working group on oil exploration.
A mutually acceptable cooperation will be forged in 12 months, it assured.
Likewise, the Palace said tourism cooperation will be enhanced as agreed by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting in Malacañang last week.
“Both sides will encourage their citizens to travel to each other’s country, strengthen cooperation in tourism infrastructure development, and encourage airlines to open more direct flights between cities of the two countries in order to further facilitate people-to-people exchanges,” it added.
By all indications, joint oil exploration and tourist exchanges will soon be set in motion.
Here come PH-China’s joint Oplan Sipsip-langis and Oplan Lakbay-tawid . May they succeed and benefit Pinoys.