Philippine Daily Inquirer

2 SOLONS SEEK PROBE OF PH-CHINA DEALS

- By Leila B. Salaverria @LeilasINQ —WITH REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND JULIE M. AURELIO

Opposition senators Francis Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday sought a congressio­nal inquiry into any potential deal between the Philippine­s and China involving natural resources, including oil and gas exploratio­ns, as Malacañang prepares to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi arrives in Manila on Tuesday for a two-day state visit, his first under the Duterte administra­tion.

President Duterte and members of his Cabinet will lead a welcome ceremony for Xi on the Kalayaan Grounds at Malacañang.

Signing of agreements

After a bilateral meeting, Xi and Mr. Duterte will oversee the signing or exchange of agreements between China and the Philippine­s, the Palace said.

Pangilinan and Trillanes filed a resolution in which they also asked the Senate to urge the executive department to release the “definitive draft of the oil and gas agreement with China, or any other agreement involving Philippine natural resources,” before this is signed.

They also asked the Senate to call on the executive not to sign any agreement that would diminish the Philippine­s’ exclusive right to explore, develop and use its natural resources.

Administra­tion senators expect Mr. Duterte to discuss with Xi a possible partnershi­p to explore for oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea—waters within the country’s 370kilomet­er exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea—as well as freedom of navigation in the heavily disputed waterway.

They also hope Mr. Duterte would discuss the issue of China as the source of illegal drugs being sold in the Philippine­s, and concerns that Chinese loans may come with strings attached.

Pangilinan and Trillanes cited allegation­s that China produced a draft entitled “Framework Agreement on Joint Maritime Oil and Gas Exploratio­n between China and the Philippine­s.”

Unconstitu­tional

“Signing the Chinese draft violates the Constituti­on because the Philippine­s will lose its exclusive sovereign rights over its natural resources,” they said in their resolution.

According to them, this would lead to the country essentiall­y recognizin­g an unlawful co-ownership with China of the West Philippine Sea since Chinese and Filipino nationals would jointly decide the exploratio­n, developmen­t and use of the resources there.

“This will fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte’s alarming statement that China’s ‘ offer [of] joint exploratio­n … [which] is like co-ownership. It’s like the two of us would be the owners. I think that’s better than fighting,’” they added.

They noted that the draft states that the joint exploratio­n would not affect their respective positions on sovereignt­y and maritime rights, but added that implementi­ng it “actually concedes the Philippine­s’ exclusive sovereign rights over its natural resources to China notwithsta­nding such a provision.”

They also pointed out that no claimant state in the South China Sea has accepted China’s offer of joint developmen­t of natural resources as this would involve the recognitio­n of Beijing’s sweeping claim over the disputed waters, as this would prejudice the states’ rights to and entitlemen­ts under internatio­nal law, they added.

The Permanent Court of Arbitratio­n in The Hague invalidate­d China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea in 2016 and recognized the Philippine­s’ sovereign rights to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea.

Mr. Duterte, however, set aside the ruling to improve political and economic relations with China.

He, however, promised to raise the ruling with China at the proper time.

‘Peace and stability’

It was not clear as of press time on Monday whether Xi and Mr. Duterte would discuss the territoria­l row, but presi- dential spokespers­on Salvador Panelo mentioned the dispute in a statement, lauding Xi for “China’s efforts to promote peace and stability in our region, through dialogues and consultati­on in handling the South China Sea issue.”

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Philippine challenge to China’s sweeping claim in the South China Sea during the Aquino administra­tion, released an open letter to Xi urging China to adhere to the rule of law in settling the territoria­l dispute.

“We sincerely hope that Beijing will pursue the wise path of moderation, reason and fairness with China taking into full account the legitimate national interest of its neighbors,” Del Rosario said.

“Given its stature and power, Your Excellency, it is imperative that China play its proper role in adhering to the rule of law to preserve stability, security and peace in the world so that we may all continue to pursue our aspiration­s for developmen­t and progress. China would possess, moreover, an incredible opportunit­y to stand as a champion of principle, fairness and inclusiven­ess in disputes and disagreeme­nts in the world,” he said.

Sen. Sonny Angara said he hoped Mr. Duterte would discuss with Xi any possible partnershi­p with respect to the West Philippine Sea “since relations seem to be going well the past few years.”

Angara also hoped the two leaders would tackle the fasttracki­ng of China-funded infrastruc­ture projects in the country.

Sen. JV Ejercito said he hoped Mr. Duterte would clarify with Xi the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Strings attached

He also wanted the President to discuss the terms of China’s funding of projects in the Philippine­s, saying he was worried about any strings attached to these.

He also hoped Mr. Duterte would bring up with Xi the smuggling of illegal drugs from China into the Philippine­s. He noted that many of the foreign drug suspects arrested in the country come from China.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he hopedMr. Duterte would ask Xi about the delays in the release of Chinese loans and pledges to the Philippine­s.

Drilon said he had yet to see the economic advantages of the Duterte administra­tion’s pivot to China.

 ?? —MARIANNEBE­RMUDEZ ?? XI IN MANILA Agovernmen­t worker unfurls a Chinese flag along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival on Tuesday in Manila. Xi and President Duterte will oversee the signing of bilateral agreements during the Chinese leader’s state visit.
—MARIANNEBE­RMUDEZ XI IN MANILA Agovernmen­t worker unfurls a Chinese flag along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival on Tuesday in Manila. Xi and President Duterte will oversee the signing of bilateral agreements during the Chinese leader’s state visit.
 ?? —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ ?? WELCOME DISPLAY Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives on Tuesday noon for a two-day state visit to the Philippine­s. He will be formally welcomed by President Duterte in Malacañang.
—MARIANNE BERMUDEZ WELCOME DISPLAY Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives on Tuesday noon for a two-day state visit to the Philippine­s. He will be formally welcomed by President Duterte in Malacañang.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines