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‘Arbitral ruling, joint exploration can co-exist’

Elmer N. Manuel

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Del Rosario: The President has a choice not to set aside the arbitral ruling "to come up with an economic activity" in the country’s EEZ.

The Philippines and China can jointly explore oil in Manila’s maritime territory without setting aside the 2016 arbitral ruling that affirmed the country’s sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone, according to former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Del Rosario on Thursday said the President has a choice not to set aside the arbitral ruling “to come up with an economic activity” in the country’s EEZ.

“If a service contract arrangement is followed, where a Chinese company participates either as an equity holder or a subcontractor, the President would remain faithful to the Constitution and the arbitral ruling,” Del Rosario said.

Earlier, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said an oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea with China would be constitutional and consistent with the ruling if Beijing participates, with the suggested 60-40 sharing, through a Philippine service contract.

In this way, Del Rosario said Duterte will remain faithful to his promise to the Filipino people during his 16 October 2016 departure speech for Brunei that he cannot be the “sole authorized agent” to share with the Chinese “our EEZ which belongs exclusively to the Filipino people.”

“We would like to emphasize that the preservation of our national patrimony, which includes our EEZ, is infinitely more valuable than coming up with an economic activity in the EEZ. The possibility of economic activity in our EEZ is always present; however, when we lose our EEZ, we lose it forever,” Del Rosario said.

“Our EEZ does not belong to China, but belongs to us Filipinos, our children and to generations of Filipinos yet unborn. As enshrined under our Constitution and as a matter of national honor, we Filipinos have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our country’s rights.”

The Philippines and China are currently hammering out a deal to explore energy resources in still undetermined areas off western Philippines.

Del Rosario also urged the government to listen to its people, of which 87 percent agree that the country “should assert its right to the islands in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”

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