January 13, 2023
MANILA – Joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China remains a possibility even after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the 2005 Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Tessie Daza told reporters on Thursday that the DFA was “duty-bound” to take into consideration “applicable cases” decided by the high tribunal such as the recent ruling for future discussions in oil and gas cooperation.
“It is, however, premature to discuss the case’s legal implications on any future agreement with China, as substantive discussions have yet to commence,” Daza said. “We are still in the process of setting the parameters that will guide any future oil and gas talks.”
Her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wenbin, echoed a similar sentiment, noting that during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit, both agreed to resume discussions on oil and gas development at an early date “with a view of benefiting the two countries and their peoples.”
In a statement released by the Chinese Embassy, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that both leaders had referred to the Memorandum of Understanding on Oil and Gas Development signed in 2018 between their governments, adding that upcoming discussions would be “building upon the outcomes of the previous talks.”
Former President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the talks with the Chinese government in June due to constitutional restraints and sovereignty issues. On Jan. 11, the Supreme Court declared as void the JMSU which allowed China and Vietnam to conduct a joint exploration with the Philippines for oil resources in areas under the country’s jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea. According to the high court, the deal was unconstitutional for allowing wholly owned foreign companies to take part in exploring the country’s resources.
The case was based on a petition filed in 2008 by Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño and five other lawmakers who asked the court to void the tripartite agreement among China National Offshore Oil Corp., Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp. and the Philippine National Oil Co.