|Senator Ralph Recto.|
Friday, July 22, 2011
Recto urges P’Noy for joint exploration on the disputed Spratly islands
MANILA, July 22, 2011-Senator Ralph G. Recto, a senior member of the Senate committees on foreign relations and of national defense and security yesterday bated the Aquino government to take the lead in pursuing a joint economic exploration of the disputed Spratly Islands among claimant countries as a way of moving forward on the long pestering issue.
“We just can’t say we’re open to the idea and sit idly. There is a pressing need to take the initiative to make this happen where a joint exploration is the only sensible thing to do in harnessing the economic potentials of Spratlys without having to fire one single shot or sinking a gun boat,” Recto said.
Recto added that the joint exploration initiative could be pushed even while issues on ownership are still being resolved under the auspices of ASEAN or United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“For this issue to resolve there is no need to wait for another 30 years. If claimants would only agree now, whatever natural resources underneath Spratlys could be shared equitably for the economic benefits of all nations,” Recto said.
“Who knows, after 30 years when the oil or natural gas is fully depleted, not a claimant would show interest anymore,” he said, adding that the joint exploration would not mean surrendering one nation's claim or sovereignty but embracing a common workable solution to a long-standing problem.
Recto explained that our country did its own joint exploration with the natural gas find in Malampaya off Palawan not with another sovereign nation but with a private multinational consortium led by Shell and Chevron. The Spratly islands is said to be sitting on large deposits of natural gas and oil.
“For starters, the country could spearhead the forging of another joint marine seismic undertaking (JMSU) among claimant countries, after the first one with China and Vietnam that was signed way back in 2005 and lapsed in 2008,” he furthered.
The JMSU, which was signed last March 2005 by the Philippines and China, called for the two countries’ joint exploration of petroleum resource potential in the South China Sea.
When Vietnam, a claimant of portions of the Spratlys, protested, it was included in the agreement. The JMSU was not renewed after it lapsed in July 2008.
“We probe together for oil then we harvest the proceeds equitably,” the chairman on the Senate committee on ways and means said, adding that the country is in a unique location to mediate a joint exploitation among claimant nations because of its proximity to the disputed islands.
“The Chinese nor the Vietnamese could not singlehandedly lay down their own natural gas or oil pipelines all the way from Spratlys to their home soil. The more economical way is to use our existing Malampaya gas pipeline that stretches from Palawan waters to South Luzon where each claimant would converge to pick up and load their share,” he said.
“In return for the use of the gas pipeline, the country could just charge handling fee,” Recto said, saying that the joint exploration proposal could be part of the talking agenda that the President will bring to the table when he visits China in August or September this year.
“If we could sell this idea to the Chinese, it would not be difficult to convince the others,” he said.
Recto pointed out that there is a pressing need to leave the sovereignty issue to the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying that the focus would be on how to make use of the economic potentials of Spratlys now while zealous foreign ministers debate over the next decade their sovereign claims.
A meeting of senior foreign officials from ASEAN countries and China to finalize the implementing guidelines on the 2002 Code of Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea has produced mixed reviews with other participants griping over a watered down version of the draft guidelines.
He said that the ASEAN secretariat noted with appreciation the proposal of the Philippines to declare South China Sea into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation in the same meeting.
To start the ball rolling, Recto said that the country's top foreign officials should have been more specific in calling for a "joint economic cooperation" in Spratlys.
Contesting the country’s claim over Spratlys are Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. (Jason de Asis)
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