SC urged: Rule now on 2008 petition vs exploration deal with China

MANILA, Philippines – Former lawmakers urged the Supreme Court to “immediately rule” on their 10-year-old petition seeking to declare unconstitutional the tripartite exploration agreement in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) forged by the Philippines, China, and Vietnam in 2004.

In a motion before the High Court, the lawmakers said it was “high time” for their 2008 petition to be resolved, given the new joint exploration deal between the Philippines and China. (READ: PH-China deal on oil, gas dev't creates body to study joint exploration)

“With all the years that have passed, with all the events that appear to make the Republic of the Philippines seemingly an adjunct of the People’s Republic of China, another joint exploration is set to be entered by the Duterte administration with China, it is high time for the Honorable Court to at least give directions and/or status updates and/or already immediately resolve the instant case now,” the motion read.

“Any joint exploration with any foreign country or entity that allows almost absolute control over the benefits of the exploration to such foreign country or entity is detrimental to the Filipino people and therefore must not be allowed,” it added.

The Philippines entered into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam under the Arroyo administration in 2004. Under the JMSU, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam – through their respective national oil corporations – agreed to a joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea, even if 80% of the site involved is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The petitioners reiterated that while the JMSU was supposed to have already lapsed in June 2008, their petition should be exempt from the application of the “moot and academic” principle, citing the alleged grave violation of the Constitution and the "paramount" public interest.

They added that the constitutional issues raised in the petition would require the formulation of controlling principles to guide the Court and the public amid the possibility that the act in question – the exploration deal – would be repeated.

“The substantive issues in the present case are now of overreaching and paramount importance to the Philippines and the Filipino people, especially in light of our current territorial and maritime disputes with China,” the petitioners said.

“In order to uphold the Constitution and conform to the assertion of the Republic of the Philippines of its sovereignty, territory, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and maritime resources, among others, over both the undisputed and claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea covered by the agreement area, the Honorable Court must strike down as unconstitutional the Tripartite Agreement,” they added.

The petitioners are former Bayan Muna representatives Neri Colmenares, Teddy Casiño, and Satur Ocampo; the late Anakpawis representative Crispin Beltran; former Gabriela representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan; former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada and former senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III.

Named respondents in the petition are former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, and the heads of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Energy, and the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation when the JMSU was forged. – Rappler.com