Aquino to MVP: What am I supposed to do?
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III harked back at businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan who has made a comment about the government's move to elevate to an international tribunal a sea dispute, and its impact to private business.
In a January 26 interview with Filipino reporters covering the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Aquino responded to questions about stalled business activity in Reed Bank (also Recto Bank) by stressing that it is his responsibility to defend the country's sovereignty.
“With all due respect to Mr. Pangilinan, what am I supposed to do?” Aquino said.
“If Mr. Pangilinan’s group enters into an arrangement that is ambivalent on whose laws apply, will [he] at some point in time -- if they (Chinese) decide to ease him out of the equation -- will [he] be as questioning of our actions?”
“I think, we are protecting not only his (Pangilinan’s) rights, but we are protecting all the rights of all Filipinos, to exploitation of the resources within our exclusive -- I have to emphasize -- exclusive economic zone based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Aquino stressed.
Reed Bank is located in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and is part of the disputed area that has become the subject of a case the Philippines has filed before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal.
Pangilinan is the head of the private consortium that the government granted Service Contract 72, which provides the rights to explore and drill potentially large quantities of gas and oil deposits.
In awarding the contract to Pangilinan-led Forum Energy in 2010, the government was exercising its sovereign rights over a part of the disputed sea. China is claiming all of the sea.
On January 24, Pangilinan said at a press briefing of a non-government organization he is a part of that they are now facing difficulties and potentially more delays in their Recto Bank work plan, which details their drilling and investment schedules.
“It has become more difficult because the issue is now not only on sovereignty. Because [the issue] was elevated to the UN, it has become a global issue,” Pangilinan said. - Rappler.com