SC asked to rule on legality of JMSU
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As worries mount over China’s apparent lusting for control over resources in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, militant party-list group Bayan Muna yesterday asked the Supreme Court to rule on its petition questioning the constitutionality of the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) signed by the previous Arroyo administration with China and Vietnam in March 2005.

“The substantive issues in the present case are of overarching and paramount importance to the Philippines and the Filipino people, especially in light of our current territorial and maritime dispute with China,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and former Rep. Teddy Casiño said in an urgent motion filed with the SC.

The petition for certiorari and prohibition seeking to void the deal between the Philippine National Oil Co., China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp. was filed in 2008 and was supposed to be submitted for resolution in 2010.

While the JMSU already expired in July 2008, petitioners urged the high court to still rule on the “issues which continue to haunt us until now.”

They reiterated their argument that JMSU was disadvantageous to the government.

“Through the JMSU, China learned of the enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto (Reed) Bank, for example just one field amounts to about 2.7-3.4 trillion cubic feet of this valuable resource,” Bayan Muna said in its petition.

“China is now hell bent on acquiring these rich natural gas deposits by hook or by crook as evidenced by its renewed aggressive stance in the area,” petitioners stressed.

“Any joint exploration with China must protect the interest of the Filipino people and should contribute to our economic development. It must also recognize our territorial integrity over the disputed area,” they added.

Under the JMSU, the Philippines, China and Vietnam through their respective national oil corporations agreed to conduct joint explorations of the disputed South China Sea even though up to 80 percent of the JMSU site is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Colmenares expressed concern that the previous deal could be used by China to strengthen its position in the ongoing territorial dispute and even in the case filed by Manila before the arbitral panel in The Hague, Netherlands.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings.

“We are asking the SC to rule against such a disadvantageous joint exploration agreement as the JMSU, so that China will not be able to use the agreement, which practically gave it control of the exploration project, against our case before the Arbitral Tribunal of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he told reporters in an interview.

The lawmaker also cited calls from some sectors for a joint exploration between the Philippines and China on the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“We believe it is important for the court to decide on the issue now that some public officials are entertaining forging another joint exploration with China. While we are for the peaceful resolution of the dispute with China, we must be wary of the proposed joint exploration between the Philippines and China on the disputed islands because as shown by our experience with the JMSU, we were put at a disadvantage when the Philippine government allowed the Chinese to gather valuable data on the natural gas deposits in Recto Bank and our other territories,” he pointed out.

Sen. Francis Escudero earlier proposed joint explorations with China on disputed islands, which he said could help resolve the tension between the two countries. The proposal got the support of several lawmakers, including Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano, South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III.

 

ARBITRAL TRIBUNAL BAYAN MUNA BAYAN MUNA REP CHINA CHINA AND VIETNAM CHINA NATIONAL OFFSHORE OIL CORP FRANCIS ESCUDERO JMSU JOINT PHILIPPINES AND CHINA
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