When former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Teddy Boy Locsin announced that China had backed out of the Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to a joint exploration of the gas and oil reserves at Reed Bank or Recto Reef, he was actually lying.
This was easily debunked by China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s statement, “China stands ready to work in concert with the new Philippine government to advance negotiations on joint development and strive to take early substantive steps so as to deliver tangible benefits to both countries and peoples.”
In short, China did not drop the ball. The Chinese panel merely argued against some terms of reference being imposed by the Philippines, specifically the twin provisions of the Service Contract that the oil and gas resource shall belong to the Philippines, and that it is to be governed by Philippine laws.
These technicalities are standard provisions for commercial agreements between and among private personalities. But in the case of our joint venture with China, it is actually a government-to-government negotiation involving state companies.
Saboteurs, such as Locsin and former associate justice Antonio Carpio, immediately introduced polemics saying that agreeing with China, sans those provisions in the Service Contract would be abandoning our claim that Reed Bank/Recto Reef is part of our “exclusive” economic zone.
That the feature belongs to the Philippines is an overstatement. EEZs do not accrue as part of our territorial sea, we only have sovereign rights to exploit whatever is under water. In fact, the surface is international waters.
Locsin placed his prevarication on record: ““Nothing is pending; everything is over,” he added. “Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines — but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it.”
As for Carpio’s own words captured on television, he concluded this to be “a violation of the Constitutional mandate of the government to protect its marine wealth.”
What a loose and narrow version (!) when what should apply here is customary international law because China has a superior claim on the basis of sovereignty because of her official position the affected area is part of her territorial waters.
The retired magistrate even exacerbated the issue by saying that it was also tantamount to abandoning our “arbitral award”, which by the way was based on the UN Convention of the Laws of the Seas, that has no jurisdiction on sovereignty issues.
As we have said about EEZs, UNCLOS awards sovereign rights but those rights do not protrude or supersede the sovereign territorial waters of another nation. EEZs also are not automatically applicable. One also has to be awarded not by a private arbitral tribunal but by the United Nations, just as on April 12, 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines undisputed claim to Benham Rise for an additional territorial sea equivalent to our continental shelf of 150 nautical miles, plus an EEZ extending from it by another 200 nautical miles.
Besides, we are not negotiating to lecture to China about our municipal or national laws. The reason why we are talking, is precisely because of the existence of a dispute that must be resolved, stupid!
Carpio is just a two-bit lawyer who does not understand global relations.
Worse, he is a sinophobe who will say anything to subterfuge any deal with China. After Roilo Golez died, the retired justice became the poster boy and talking head of Philippine-based agents for Washington DC’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, namely Stratbase ADR Institute as co-chaired by Albert del Rosario and Manny Pangilinan.
Recall Hongkong immigration not allowing entry to Del Rosario, despite his diplomatic passport? He was actually feigning immunity but he really went there to attend a shareholders’ meeting of First Pacific Company Limited, where he has been a non-executive director since June 2016.
First Pacific planned juggernaut in oil exploration actually started when in 2006, a certain Forum Energy Plc owned by British oil-industry, bought the government rights to explore for hydrocarbons at the Sampaguita field at Reed Bank, from another exploration company Sterling Energy which held the authority from President Gloria Arroyo as far back as 2002, under a so-called Geophysical And Exploration Contract No 101 (GSEC 101).
The owners of Forum Energy in 2006 and 2007 sold their shares to Philex Mining, through a subsidiary, Philex Petroleum (later renamed PX Petroleum). From November 2008 to January 2010, First Pacific in a highly controversial corporate takeover became the main stockholder of Philex Mining, spending an enormous P25 billion for the prize.
At this juncture, let us borrow some history read-back from former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao’s two books Debacle and Debunked.
“(First Pacific) underestimated China’s response however. In contrast to its economic and military weakness when Marcos grabbed the Kalayaan islands, China at this time was emerging as a superpower, and started to enforce its sovereignty claims in the Spratlys (which it calls Nansha Islands).
“Its China National Offshore Oil Corp. had become its third biggest oil corporation and in the 1990s started to move into disputed areas in the South China Sea, in joint ventures with US firms.”
When Arroyo’s “Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking” agreement ended in 2008, First Pacific went full throttle to control Philex, whose subsidiary, Forum Energy, had the authority to explore in the Reed Bank.
Despite assurances by then Foreign Affairs Secretary, Alberto Romulo, that the Philippines would not convert GSEC 101 into a Service Contract, Arroyo’s energy department issued Forum Energy its Service Contract (SC 72) covering the Sampaguita Field on Feb. 10, 2009, which authorized it to develop and extract for hydrocarbons in a specific area.
Tiglao continued, “China vehemently protested, and claimed the Philippines had gone back on its word.” In a note verbale on February 22, 2010, it expressed “its strong objection and indignation” to the Philippine government’s authorization of Forum Energy to extract oil and gas in a part of the Reed Bank.”
China pointed out: “The act of the Philippine side has seriously infringed upon China’s sovereignty and sovereign rights and goes contrary to its commitments on the South China Sea issue and to the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea. It is illegal, null and void.”
This was followed by another diplomatic note a few weeks later on May 13, 2010, which urged the Philippines to “immediately withdraw the decision to award [the] Service Contract.”
Arroyo whose administration ended on June 30, 2010, completely ignored the Chinese protests, and did not even reply. Eight months after, her successor President Benigno Simeon Aquino III appointed Albert del Rosario as foreign secretary.
Tiglao exposed, “Nothing in his administration’s announcements of this appointment mentioned that del Rosario was close to both First Pacific’s main owner Anthoni Salim and CEO Pangilinan and that he was for many years a member of its board, and reportedly had shares in the firm worth at least P50 million.”
The Aquino government gave the go-signal to First Pacific’s survey vessel MV Veritas Voyager to start its seismic surveys in the Reed Bank, just a few days after appointing Del Rosario. On March 2, 2011, two China Marine Surveillance vessels, together with seven Chinese fishing vessels, drove Veritas Voyager away from Reed Bank.
This is where all these brouhaha about the “West Philippine Sea” all started. First Pacific’s ambition was stopped dead in its tracks. This where all Del Rosario’s lawfare and information war tagging China as a “bully”, began.
Tiglao asserts that “Aquino was livid or more likely told by this Foreign secretary to be livid, telling him this was a question of Philippine sovereignty, and that he must protest China’s ‘bullying’.
“In his second State of the Nation Address in July 2011 — to the surprise of most Filipinos who didn’t have a clue about this foreign affairs issue — Aquino declared in melodramatic fashion: “What is ours is ours… We will defend Recto Bank as if it were (Claro M.) Recto Avenue.”
This is how Aquino positioned his “war” on China by rousing. nationalist sentiment. He was so confrontational that in April 2012 he ordered our Navy’s newest warship the BRP Gregorio del Pilar to arrest Chinese fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc, or Scarborough Shoal.
The village idiot that he was, he did not know that when a gray ship of the navy, as distinguished from white ships of the coast guard, boards a vessel espousing a flag of another country, such would be an equivalent of actually waging war against that country.
Which is why Ambassador Tiglao explained, “China claimed the Philippines had militarized the dispute, claiming a high moral ground and sending civilian vessels to bear down on the confrontation.”
This is how we lost Reed Bank, this is how we also lost the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
Tiglao said “Both as a smokescreen to that colossal blunder, and prodded and technically helped by the US which wanted some kind of international ruling to demonize China’s claims in the South China Sea, the Aquino government filed its arbitration suit against China in January 2013. That’s how powerful oligarchs are, that they could even set our foreign policy on a disastrous course.”
Anti-Chinese racism has been maliciously measured and promoted by American agents led by Del Rosario, to make it almost impossible for our government to enter into joint exploration in the Reed Bank/Recto Reef.
Or so they thought.