MANILA, Philippines – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court on Thursday, July 14, said the Philippine Constitution bans "joint development" within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
"You cannot enter into joint development within our EEZ. That’s prohibited by the Constitution," Carpio said in an interview with ANC.
The EEZ is an area 200 miles from a coastal state’s baselines within which the state has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit marine resources.
Carpio said this after broadcast journalist Karen Davila cited the start of a "collaboration" under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo "to exploit, to survey gas and oil in the Reed Bank," which the Philippines calls Recto Bank. Davila asked Carpio, "Should we do that or is it against the Constitution?"
Carpio, one of the Philippines' leading experts on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), replied that a case on this "is pending" so he "will not respond."
Carpio, however, reacted in general to the statement of Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr that the Philippines is willing to share natural resources with China in the West Philippine Sea.
Yasay said in an interview with Agence France-Presse: "We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory – how we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping."
Carpio said Yasay made this statement "before the ruling" issued by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday, July 12.
Why it's called 'exclusive'
Carpio said the ruling now states that the West Philippine Sea "constitutes the EEZ of the Philippines," and that "there is no overlapping EEZ from China."
The SC justice continued: "The Constitution says the EEZ is part of the national territory of the Philippines… Second, the Constitution says that the state shall protect its marine wealth in the EEZ and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. So whether it's President Duterte, President Arroyo, or any other president in the future, that cannot be compromised."
He added: "What is allowed by the Constitution is, we can attract foreign companies, like Shell, to drill and we will pay them in kind. But it cannot be a joint development state to state because that is our sovereign territory."
He pointed out that Shell, for example, "is lifting the gas in Malampaya," the gas field that provides 40% of electricity in the Philippines’ biggest island group, Luzon.
Carpio said: "Shell is a 90% foreign-owned company. It can be done, but they are doing that as a contractor of the Philippine government. It's not a sovereign agreement between two states."
Asked if he has explained this to Yasay and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Carpio said: "I'm trying to explain this to everybody. I think the President now understands because he has said that when we negotiate with China, we will use the ruling of the tribunal."
Carpio was one of those who explained the ruling in a July 12 Cabinet meeting presided over by Duterte.
Carpio ended his interview on Thursday by saying: "The exclusive economic zone is called 'exclusive' because it is exclusive to the coastal state, to the Philippines. That's why you cannot have joint development with another country because international law and national law have said it's exclusive."
"Why do you want to share what’s exclusively yours?" – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.