SC urged anew to reject oil exploration deal

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

MILITANT group Bayan Muna asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday to resolve the petition it filed in 2008 questioning the constitutionality of the defunct deal that allowed China and Vietnam to explore oil in the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

In an urgent motion, the group called on the SC to nullify the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) even if the agreement among Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and Philippine National Oil Company had already lapsed on June 30, 2008.

Bayan Muna believed the petition could not be declared moot and academic because there was allegedly a grave violation of the Constitution, public interest is involved and that a similar deal could be made again "yet evading review."

Backed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the agreement drew opposition because the exploration areas were within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and not the EEZs of China and Vietnam.

"Through the JMSU, China learned of the enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto Reed Bank, for example just one field amounts to about 2.7-3.4 trillion cubic feet of this valuable resource. China is now hell bent on acquiring these rich natural gas deposits by hook or by crook as evidenced by its renewed aggressive stance in the area," said Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares.

China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea under the nine-dash line while the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the territory, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and a major shipping lane.

Despite China's call for one-on-one talks, the Philippines brought the dispute to arbitration as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and asked for a conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China. (Sunnex)

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