“The language of the Constitution is explicit, that the exclusive economic zone is part of the national territory and that it should be for the enjoyment and exploitation exclusively of Filipinos alone. We cannot enter into joint development within the EEZ,” Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in a recent interview. EEZ stands for exclusive economic zone. Jonathan Asuncion, File

‘Joint venture with China on South China Sea violates Charter’
(The Philippine Star) - August 1, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - A joint venture with China in the West Philippine Sea is a violation of the Constitution, according to a senior magistrate of the Supreme Court (SC).

“The language of the Constitution is explicit, that the exclusive economic zone is part of the national territory and that it should be for the enjoyment and exploitation exclusively of Filipinos alone. We cannot enter into joint development within the EEZ,” Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in a recent interview. EEZ stands for exclusive economic zone.

Carpio explained that while the government may enter into contracts with China or other countries, such contracts cannot be done through sovereign agreements. He said the other country may act only as a contractor but not as a sovereign entity.

“Other countries can enter as contractor but not as a sovereign agreement because that is prohibited by the Constitution – the EEZ is exclusively ours. We can ask other countries if they have the technology but we don’t give up our sovereign rights because that is prohibited under our Constitution,” he pointed out.

The SC justice said that a joint development within the nation’s EEZ would be tantamount to conceding sovereignty to China.

He particularly cited Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Benham Rise.

“Scarborough Shoal is defined as part of the Philippine territory under our domestic law. Of course we cannot concede any of our sovereign rights or sovereignty of our Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio explained.

“We also have sovereign rights over Benham Rise because we have exclusive right to explore and exploit the oil, gas and other mineral resources in that area which has been confirmed by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as part of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines,” he added.

Should the Duterte administration pursue its plan to forge a joint exploitation with China, Carpio suggested that the deal “will have to avoid language that implies that we recognize sovereignty of China or sovereign right of China over the areas in the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio reiterated that the award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines’ claims on the West Philippine Sea against China only resolved the maritime dispute but did not settle the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, particularly on Panatag Shoal, due to lack of jurisdiction on the matter.

In its award issued in July last year, the PCA upheld major submissions of the Philippines, including the declaration of China’s nine-dash line as contrary to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and having no basis in law.                 

The award also affirmed the Philippines’ stance that China’s move to shoo away Filipino fishermen at the disputed Panatag Shoal was unlawful.

It also declared Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank as “part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”

Recto Bank is said to be a territory rich in oil and natural gas and could be a possible alternative to the Malampaya gas fields. – Edu Punay, Alexis Romero

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