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Malampaya template pitched for joint exploration in West Philippine Sea

Malampaya template pitched for joint exploration in West Philippine Sea
Bernadette D. Nicolas -August 19, 2018

A COMMERCIAL transaction on a joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea should adopt the Malampaya model and must be done according to the Constitution, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

The Philippine government and the Malampaya consortium have a 60-40 sharing of revenues for the gas deposits off the shore of Palawan.

Current Foreign Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano had earlier said that the Philippine government would not agree on a deal with China on possible joint exploration unless it is as good as or greater the Malampaya model.

Cayetano announced this month that the President has approved “in principle” the establishment of a technical working group on the joint exploration.

He said China was also ready with its own technical working group and is hoping that the framework agreement between Philippines and China could be signed in September.

In a chance interview, del Rosario said having a commercial transaction follow the Malampaya template “would be very good,” even as he also warned that the country’s joint exploration with China must adhere to the Philippine Constitution.

“I think if we can come up with a workable agreement that sovereignty is not an issue, that will be okay,” he said.

Del Rosario preceded Cayetano at the DFA.

Asked if the current administration is consulting him or anyone from the past administration to be part of the technical working group, del Rosario said he thinks that the current administration intends to talk to Paul Reichler, the lead attorney-interpreter of the legal team that brought the Philippines its historic victory in its case against China on the West Philippine Sea before a UN arbitral tribunal. “I think they are covering that base,” he said.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio has also said that he has no objection to the joint development as long as it complies with the Constitution, and there is no waiver of sovereign rights under the arbitral ruling.

In his opening remarks in a Stratbase ADRi forum on Friday, the former secretary reiterated that the arbitral ruling won by the country two years ago is not an “empty victory,” as he took a swipe against Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, who previously made the remark and has since clarified his statement.

“Any person who views it as such carries the voice of China,” he said.

More than two years since The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued the landmark decision invalidating China’s massive claims to the West Philippine Sea, China still does not recognize the ruling.

Nevertheless, del Rosario lauded the President for his statements on China that the Asian superpower should “temper” its behavior in the South China Sea.

“Nine out of ten Filipinos would be encouraged and inspired by this manifestation of our President’s positive leadership,” he said. “If we truly adhere [to] and respect the rule of law, we should actively seek to end any unlawful and aggressive attack to the rules-based international system.”

He said the country must regain the respect of responsible nations by clearly standing up for the rule of law, adding that opposing views that tend to undermine the country’s lawful rights and interests should not get in the way.

“The Filipinos have the law on their side. We are in the right. Let us therefore speak with one voice —that adherence to the rule of law is the only way forward,” he said.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely also pointed out that a strong and effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea should not prejudice the interests and rights of third parties, and this must be consistent with existing international rules, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“As a supporter of a rules-based order, Australia believes the negotiation of a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea has the potential to help manage the disputes and decrease tensions,” Gorely said.

She urged claimants to clarify their claims according to international law and to refrain from pursuing claims through unilateral actions that destabilizes the region, and increases militarization.

“The Code of Conduct should reinforce existing regional architecture and Asean’s [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] centrality, and it should strengthen parties’ commitments to cease actions that would complicate or escalate disputes, particularly militarization,” she said.