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Solons seek probe of Spratlys deal with China

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:38:00 03/06/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Fourteen members of the House of Representatives, four of them administration allies, have filed a resolution calling for an investigation into an agreement involving the disputed Spratlys Islands that was allegedly struck in exchange for Chinese loans and attended by corruption.

House Resolution 496 directs the committees on foreign affairs, national defense and security, and ecology to look into the 2004 Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) between the Philippines, China and Vietnam, ostensibly intended to map resources in the Spratlys but which critics claim sells out Philippine interests and sovereignty “in exchange for overpriced loans to fund controversial projects like the national broadband [network or NBN] deal, the Northrail and Southrail project[s], among others.”

The measure, filed Wednesday, listed as authors Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna (People First), Roilo Golez of Parañaque, Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Teofisto Guingona III (Bukidnon), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan) de Oro, Liza Maza (Gabriela), all from the opposition bloc;

Independents Teodoro Locsin Jr. of Makati and Nonato Joson of Nueva Ecija; and administration Representatives Luis Villafuerte and Felix Alfelor (Camarines Sur), Bienvenido Abante Jr. (Manila), and Crispin Remulla (Cavite).

“The subject agreement is effectively giving away the national patrimony as it actually concedes the exploration and exploitation of natural resources to foreigners which, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), clearly fall within the archipelagic waters, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines,” the resolution said.

“Considering the nature, scope and possible impact of the subject Agreement that actually involves matters affecting national sovereignty, national patrimony, and national defense and security; the said agreement should have been treated as a treaty or an international agreement which should be subject to the ratification of the Senate under Article VII, Section 21 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution’ instead of being treated as a mere commercial contract,” they added.

The alleged corruption surrounding the JMSU was reported by the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) and some local news outfits.

“Some would say it was a sell-out on the part of the Philippines,” South China Sea expert Mark Valencia was quoted by FEER as saying.

In a separate statement, Casiño warned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that she could be impeached for treason if the agreement indeed compromised the country’s patrimony and sovereignty.

“If that happens, then the next impeachment complaint will most likely cover all the grounds for impeachment, including betrayal of the public trust, culpable violation of the constitution, bribery, high crimes, and treason,” Casiño said.

The leftist solon also questioned the House leadership for its apparent delay in the approval of a bill that would include the Spratlys as part of the country's national territory.

He was referring to House Bill 3216, which has been pending on the floor for third and final reading.



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