Repeating treasonous 2008 joint exploration

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Manila is again jointly to explore with China the West Philippine Sea. That’s against the Constitution, which limits foreign participation in natural resource activities to only financial or technical assistance. But Manila is using anew the excuse of having no money. It is even justifying the wrong by lying that China co-owns the disputed waters anyway.

Proponents of joint exploration are repeating the shame of 2005-2008. Oddly, two of them, now Cabinet members, had denounced such act then as treason. What could be their reason now to sell out?

The 2005-2008 Joint Marine Seismic Understanding (JMSU) eroded Philippine sovereignty. At that time only the Spratly Islands at the edge of the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was “disputed waters.” The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have overlapping claims over parts or whole of the archipelago. But in the JMSU, Malacañang conceded to China calling the area to be explored as disputed. It consisted of a rectangular stretch of undersea, 142,886 square kilometers west of Palawan. It was way beyond China’s own 200-mile EEZ. One-sixth of it was Philippine continental shelf that China did not even claim. Included was the Recto (Reed) Bank, site of the Sampaguita oilfields. By calling it disputed, Manila in effect gave Beijing joint right over it. Notably, China never offered any portion of its own EEZ for joint exploration.

The JMSU benefited only China. Supposedly Manila and Beijing were to map the area for consequent joint use of the resources. Chinese ships and equipment were used to plot the seascape, including potential oilfields. Malacañang plunked in $5 million without congressional appropriation. Yet Manila never got a copy of the research. China withheld it from the Philippines on the pretext that the latter failed to participate in the JMSU’s three-year extension. Filipinos were had. Again the JMSU violated the Constitution. Article XII, National Economy and Patrimony, requires foreign participation in natural resources to redound to “real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country.”

In 2009 Beijing unilaterally claimed not just the Spratlys but the entire South China Sea. It filed with the United Nations such entitlement by virtue of historical right. The claim contradicts the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That international pact recognizes only the 200-mile EEZ and, if existent, a 150-mile extended continental shelf. Suddenly China started harassing Filipino expeditions in the Recto Bank. Forum Energy, a British-funded exploration in Sampaguita Field, protested. Malacañang ignored it, in effect ceding control to China.

Patriotic Filipinos discovered the JMSU only by chance in 2008. A Singaporean think tank exposed it as part of a study on the Spratly row. The study noted that Manila in 2002 had led the ASEAN to make Beijing sign a Declaration of Conduct in the disputed seas. Part of the agreement was to not expand any territorial claims or threaten violence. Two years later Manila broke ranks from ASEAN by inking a secret deal with China. Vietnam got wind of it and demanded a part. When the JMSU was formalized the following year, Vietnam lost interest, as the coverage was mostly Palawan waters. So shrouded in secrecy was the JMSU that Malacañang violated the Charter yet a third time. In Article XII the President is supposed to report to Congress any foreign deal in natural resources within 30 days of signing.

Other details emerged. Like, Malacañang was enticed into the JMSU by economic loans of up to $2 billion a year in 2006-2010. Part of it was P329 million for the scandalous national broadband network by China’s ZTE Corp. A Senate inquiry confirmed the exposé in this column: $200 million of that amount was for kickbacks to the Filipino traitors. Other loans were for the uncompleted North Rail, South Rail, and an unconstitutional grant of gold mining rights in Mount Diwalwal to ZTE International. Whistleblowers testified in the Senate of minimum 20-percent kickbacks. At that time China was also lending to crooked Central Asian and African governments. It didn’t matter that the presidents stole the funds, so long as the governments repaid and natural resources were assigned to Chinese exploiters.

Today Manila officials claim that joint exploration with China is the only alternative to war. That’s a farce. There are proven legal diplomatic ways. In 2013 patriots had sued China before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague for grabbing Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal the year before. Also questioned was Beijing’s unfounded historical right to the entire South China Sea. Plus three other points: that China worsened the dispute by concreting reefs and shoals into artificial island fortresses, that those fake islands cannot bolster any territorial claims, and that Beijing destroyed the environment. Manila won all five points in 2016. The next logical step was to get UN support for the victory. As well, to file for compensation for Beijing’s environmental ruin.

But Malacañang shirked. Now it wants joint exploration all over again. What actually is needed is punishment for the traitors, and courage against invaders. What for do we pledge at every official, civic, and school function: “Aming ligaya na ‘pag may nang-aapi, ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo”?

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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