THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - November 26, 2018 - 12:00am

Many are assuring the public that the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) between the Philippines and China for the exploration of oil and gas in the South China Sea is not disadvantageous to the country. No less than Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who is ever vigilant in asserting the country's sovereign rights, claims that the MOU is only an “agreement to explore solutions” in the search for ocean-based research. DFA Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. calls the MOU as “an agreement to agree”. Details of the agreement will still be done by both countries before any actual exploration starts.

However, there are those who still insist that any agreement between the two countries must be made transparent. It is certain that the technology and equipment will all come from China. This should not compromise the position of the country, especially its share of the bounties of the sea as stipulated in our Constitution. Nor should the country's territory's claims be compromised in any way. That should not be on the table. We may well find out if China is truly the friend it offers to be.

There is no doubt that China is the partner this administration wants in the search of the ocean’s bounties. But Acting Chief Justice Carpio is right. There is still a need to be vigilant. Whatever transpires between China and the country, the people should know about it. DFA Sec. Locsin claims the MOU is in the country’s best interest. Let’s hope so. We should not be complacent just because China is offering so much.

Experts say China and the Philippines are not the only claimants to the seas. So, whatever results of the agreement between the two countries, the other claimants will surely be interested. Despite the warnings given by some sectors, as well as foreigners who warned that the country might eventually drown in debt with China, this administration seems to have brushed them all aside.

 As the draft of the actual agreement for the exploration of oil and gas is hammered out, we will see if the administration will see to it that the country stands to benefit more from the deal. China cannot wait to start exploring the seas, which all the more should make the country cautious. Whatever is agreed upon in the coming days, the country should be the greater beneficiary, if that is possible. As they say, no such thing as a free lunch. 

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