A joint oil and gas exploration by China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea will “somehow give up” the arbitration ruling that said Manila had sovereign rights over the disputed areas in the sea, a maritime expert said Sunday.
Jay Batongbacal, a professor of maritime affairs and the Laws of the Sea, said the government had yet to address the legal issues in the areas that would potentially be the subjects of the joint exploration deal between the Philippines and China.
“Given that we have the arbitration ruling on our side, it’s really hard to think of a way to proceed with this joint development without somehow giving up the arbitration ruling,” Batongbacal said.
The Philippines and China in February agreed to set up a special panel to work out how they could jointly explore offshore oil and gas in the waters that both countries claim without needing to address the issue of sovereignty.
“It’s very difficult to resolve. The conditions for engaging in joint development in the areas are not yet being addressed legally by the administration’s actions or statements so far,” Batongbacal said.
He agreed with former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay who said the Philippines must file a diplomatic protest against China for the supposed militarization of the disputed areas in the South China Sea.
Batongbacal said the Philippines must be commended for exercising self-restraint over the South China Sea issues even if other claimant countries had already started developing weapons systems in the area.
The government has already begun repairing the collapsed runway on Pag-asa Island, the largest of its nine features in the Spratly islands.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this was “consistent with our national sovereignty and jurisdiction.”