For Decision on 2005 South China Sea Joint Exploration Deal, Envi Group Hails SC

by Kalikasan - People's Network for the Environment

January 11, 2023

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared as unconstitutional the country’s 2005 Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment celebrated this decision.

“For the environmentalists and people’s groups in our network, this decision spells stronger protection of the resources of the West Philippine Sea and their preservation for the next generation,” said Jon Bonifacio, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator.

“This decision is also a big and concrete step toward addressing the climate crisis, as it will serve as a deterrent to any plans of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. to explore fossil fuels in those waters,” Bonifacio said.

In his trip to China last week, the two leaders reopened talks, begun in 2018, over the possibility of jointly developing oil and gas resources in the West Philippine Sea, which is contested by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand.

The burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change, to which the Philippines is highly vulnerable. It is made up of many islands that can be submerged or flooded by sea level rise, stronger and more frequent typhoons are already causing disastrous floods, and most Filipinos live on the country’s vast coastlines and depend on climate-sensitive natural resources.

“We call on the Marcos Jr. administration to respect the high court’s decision, and, at the same time, to put all his climate rhetoric into action by actually stopping all plans for fossil fuel exploration and development in the West Philippine sea,” Bonifacio ended.

The JMSU was signed in 2005 between China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), Vietnam’s Oil and Gas Corporation (PETROVIETNAM), and the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC).

Under the undertaking, joint explorations were to be conducted in 142,886 square kilometers of the South China Sea covering the six islands claimed and occupied by the Philippines in Spratly—the islands of Pag-Asa, Lawak, Kota, Patag, and Panata.

Because 80 percent of the JMSU site is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, progressive groups filed petitions seeking to declare the agreement unconstitutional.

Today, after 14 years, the SC declared that the JSMU violated the Constitution for allowing wholly-owned foreign corporations to explore the country’s natural resources without observing the safeguards provided in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. It voted 12-2-1. #

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of their organization nor of the CPDG.