The Senate is not in a hurry to check on the planned joint exploration of China and the Philippines in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) contained in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and China President Xi Jinping as senators urged critics to review the agreement first.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said questions raised on the MoU were premature.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the MoU was merely a document indicating “a cooperation to find ways to find a solution.”
“It is just a memorandum of cooperation to explore a solution,” he said.
He added China and the Philippines will look for “solutions on how we (Philippines) can enjoy resources in the (WPS) area.”
“Before questioning the MoU, they should check first what is contained there. We should not be passing accusations without even knowing what’s in there,” Sotto said.
“We should not be careless in saying things without even knowing the contents of the MoU. That is why our country is having problems because of that — many are passing judgment without knowing first the facts,” he added.
The Senate President maintained Malacañang will be very transparent regarding the issue.
For his part, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said instead of raising questions, the Executive Department deserves to be commended for the successful state visit of Xi in Manila.
“I think congratulations are in order for Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, our ambassador to China and the Chinese ambassador,” Zubiri said.
On the planned scrutiny of the MoU by some lawmakers, he said he is expecting the Senate foreign affairs committee to ask copies of the MoU as soon as possible from the Executive.
No need for hearing
At the same time, Zubiri said he does not see the need for any formal Senate hearing to review the MoU.
“Not really to investigate, I believe the foreign affairs committee has the jurisdiction to ask for copies of the MoU,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to be a hearing. It could be a reporting from the government.”
Sen. Chiz Escudero also said he is expecting the Executive Department to inform the Senate regarding the MoU, particularly on the planned joint exploration or the senators can ask for such documents during the budget hearing.
Palace can furnish deal
“Malacañang can always furnish us with a copy (of the agreement). We can call for a hearing and we can ask all of these documents during the budget hearings. There are many opportunities,” Escudero said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar said she is confident the MoU signed by the Duterte administration will bring more opportunities to the Filipino people.