SOME lawmakers are not happy with the government’s announcement that it is open to a joint exploration of islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with China, especially since the international arbitral tribunal has yet to hand down its ruling on the case filed by Manila against Beijing.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat warned that entering into a joint exploration agreement with China is tantamount to going after a pittance.
“The bully doesn’t share. It gives crumbs. It is a wrong policy to share development of resources in the West Philippine Sea. This is ours. Let’s take a stronger stand,” Baguilat, who once went on a trip to the Kalayaan islands with other lawmakers, said in a statement.
“China is a bully. It will not listen to contrary opinion. It imposes its will. It does not follow rule of law,” he added.
Senator Leila de Lima said the government’s primordial consideration should always be the national interest, thus it should carefully study its course of action after the international tribunal hands down its ruling.
She warned that the government will be wasting the efforts of the previous administration in challenging China’s claim if the Philippines will agree to a joint exploration.
“When we talk about joint exploration that means you both have rights on the area. What if the tribunal stated that the territories being claimed by China are within our EEZ or the Philippines have the exclusive rights to utilize, exploit these areas?” de Lima pointed out.
She said she is confident that the Philippines will get a favorable decision from the arbitral tribunal.
“We have international law as support for our position and it is precisely in recognition of the rule of international law that decided the previous administration to bring the case to the arbitral tribunal,” the former Justice Secretary said.
On Sunday, Secretary Martin Andanar said the government is not ruling out a joint exploration with China.
“On that question [on joint exploration], we will have to wait for the final decision of the UN Permanent Court on Arbitration in The Hague. Once it is decided, we will study the decision,” Andanar said in a radio interview.
“Once the SolGen (Solicitor General) is done studying it, then that’s the time that we shall explore our next move. All our arguments are in. Now, they will decide on July 12, 5 p.m. Let’s just wait for that decision,” he added.
The Philippines agreed to a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam in 2004 that covered West Philippine Sea islands located just 142,886 square kilometers west of Palawan.
But the JMSU, which lapsed in 2008, hardly made China back off from the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).