Former Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio revealed on Monday, November 26, that the joint exploration and exploitation of resources in the West Philippine Sea with China is a direct violation of our constitution.
“Joint exploration and exploitation is prohibited in our Constitution, which requires that the Philippines shall have ‘full control and supervision’ in the exploration and exploitation of natural resources,” Carpio explained as reported by The Philippine Star.
“Joint exploration and exploitation” as defined by law “will diminish our ‘full control’ and thus violate the Constitution,” he added.
The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on oil and gas exploration during the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping had elicited concerns and criticisms noting that the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea would be compromised.
However, Carpio clarified that a portion of the MOU indicated a possibility of China recognizing service contracting by the Philippines. Ultimately suggesting that they would consider the Philippines’ sovereign rights over areas covered by service contracts.
“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,” Carpio explained.
Carpio further added that the participation of China in oil and gas exploration through Philippine service contracts might be acceptable.
“I think we’re pretty safe. The government has included service contractors, so if we cooperate, if the cooperation with China on oil and gas activities will be through service contractors, we’re very safe,” Carpio clarified in an interview.
The acting chief magistrate also proposed that the service contractor in the Philippines’ Recto Bank (Reed Bank), Forum Energy, could easily pick a Chinese firm for its subcontractor. Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s PXP Energy Corporation through its London-listed unit Forum Energy Plc, holds an exploration permit covering Recto Bank.
“China can come in as a subcontractor of Forum Energy or it can buy into equity of Forum Energy, or it could do both,” Carpio suggested.
Palace: Carpio’s stance won’t affect CJ nomination
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo dismissed the idea that Carpio’s apparent opposition on the administration’s program would cost him the chief justice nomination. If seniority would play a part in the said nomination, Carpio is deemed as the frontrunner for the chief magistrate post. Other candidates include Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Andres Reyes Jr.
Carpio is seen as vocal in expressing his stance on the longstanding maritime dispute between the Philippines and China. The spokesperson explained that the president appoints members of the cabinet even if their views contradict that of the leader.
“Also those members of the cabinet coming from the left, attacking the president and yet they were appointed. So I don’t think you can derive a conclusion that just because someone is a critic of the administration you cannot be appointed,” he added.