Professor Hilbay responds to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s position on joint explorations in the West Philippine Sea
1. The La Bugal decision is an interpretation of RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act. Section 3 of that law specifically excludes "petroleum, natural gas,... and geothermal energy." The President's 60-40 deal refers to potential oil and gas in our exclusive economic zone.
La Bugal is about mineral mining, which is under the control of the DENR. Pursuant to PD 87 and PD 1857, the agency in charge of oil and gas is the Dept of Energy, which was not even a party to the case.
2. Mining companies who do business here in the Philippines do not contest the ownership of our country over our natural resources. The activity is purely economic, and has absolutely no implication over our territorial rights. Those companies submit to Philippine jurisdiction.
3. The President's proposed "sharing" is entirely different. The fundamental assumption of the agreement is that there are conflicting claims to sovereign rights over our waters (and the natural resources found in the area). This is incompatible with our victory at The Hague which declares that we do not share "any overlapping entitlements" with China over our exclusive economic zone.
4. The practical result of the President's proposal is that the "exploration, development, and utilisation" of our natural resources will not be under our full control, but under China's. We'll simply be given the money, nothing more. China will not register in the Philippines, pay taxes, submit to audit, or be subjected to any form of regulation. This is because they will be in our waters not as investors merely, but as owners of the resources.
The clearest evidence that China is a usurper is its willingness to "share". If it were so sure about its rights in the West Philippine Sea, it would not be willing to share at all.
5. The decision in Philippines v. China fully clarifies our title to our waters and removes China's bogus claim. The effect of the President's plan is not only to cast doubt on our title, but also (and worse) to effectively recognise China's 9-dash Line. Thus, in lieu of money, we're destabilising our rights and giving away legal advantage. This is dangerous not only for the Philippines, but for the entire region.
It is important for public officials to recognize the distinction between defending the Constitution and defending their superiors. Presidents come and go, but the rights under our Constitution must remain permanent and be secured for present and future generations of Filipinos.