By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has labeled Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as “unpatriotic” for raising the possibility that China can seize Philippine gas fields if the country fails to pay back the loan for a project.
Panelo made the statement after Carpio last week said that Beijing could seize the country’s gas reserves in Reed Bank if Manila is unable to pay its $62-million loan it obtained from China for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
The magistrate cited a provision in the loan deal wherein the Philippines supposedly waived its immunity to its patrimonial assets and assets dedicated to commercial use.
In an interview over ANC, Panelo said Carpio was appearing to be unpatriotic because he was effectively giving China an idea that will put the Philippines at a disadvantage.
“Siya ang lumalabas na unpatriotic dito… Parang tinuturuan niya pa ang Chinese (He is coming out to be unpatriotic in this case. It seems like he is even telling the Chinese what to do),” Panelo said.
“Wala namang loopholes, binibigyan niya pa ng loopholes (There are no loopholes but he is making some),” he added.
“Justice ka ng Supreme Court, dapat protective ka nga sa ating interes, parang kumakampi ka doon sa kabila in a way (You are a Supreme Court Justice so you should protect the country’s interest. But it seems like you are aligning with the other party in a way),” he continued.
The Palace official then insisted that there was no mention of any collateral in the loan agreement. He said the deal merely allows the loan to be paid off with revenue from natural gas yields.
“Yung natural gas na kinuha mo sa lupa, ‘pag ibinenta mo nang may share ang gobyerno, iyun ang kukuhanin nilang kabayaran sa utang mo (The natural gas that you got from the land, when you sell that in a way that the government would get a share, that’s what they will get as payment for your loan),” Panelo explained.
Panelo also reiterated that the agreement was not onerous because the Philippines will be able to settle its debt anyway.
“Hindi ka magde-default kasi palaging kasama sa budget iyan (You won’t default because the payment is always included in the budget),” he said.
Meanwhile, Panelo agreed with Carpio that there should be a law declaring the Reed Bank as a patrimonial asset. However, he said won’t make any difference.
“I agree na meron… Pero even mayroon na ngang batas (I agree that there is a law. But even so)… it doesn’t alter the situation,” he said.
According to a 2013 report from the US Energy Information Administration, the Reed Bank could hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Carpio has warned that the loan agreement for the Chico River project could serve as a template of other deals the Philippines has with China.