Oposisyon Koalisyon: PH at ‘disadvantage’ in China deals
Three Oposisyon Koalisyon (OK) Senate bets on Wednesday said the Philippines appears to be at the losing end of bilateral agreements entered with China.
According to Oposisyon Koalisyon senatorial bet and human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, their study of China’s deals with other countries has revealed that China has a habit of placing provisions which would heavily favor them.
“Based sa mga pag-aaral namin lalong-lalo na sa kontrata ng Tsina sa ibang bansa, mahilig silang mag-insert ng mga provisions na syempre, pabor sa kanila, pero hindi mismo pumapabor sa kabilang bansa,” Diokno said in a press briefing in Quezon City.
“‘Yon ang kinakatakutan namin, baka naman dito sa mga kontrata na ito, may annex dyan o may maliit na footnote dyan, o kaya may provision mismo dyan sa loob na dehado tayo,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jingping and President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed on Tuesday the signing of 29 bilateral agreements at Malacañang Palace. Some of agreements covered oil and gas development, basic education cooperation, and communication technology.
Details of the deals however, including the location of the oil exploration site, have yet to be made public.
Both Diokno and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, who is also running for the Senate under the OK slate, recognized that the administration might not fully release the full text of the contracts.
“Wala pa naman tayong batas na Freedom of Information Act, meron tayong Executive Order. Kaya lang ang daming mga exception dyan, at kung ang ‘yan ang magiging batayan natin para makuha ‘long mga kontrata, palagay ko hindi nila ibibigay ‘yan,” Diokno explained.
“Tingin ko walang bisa ‘yan, bakit ko nasabi? Humingi po ako ng kopya no’ng loan agreement sa Department of Finance, hanggang ngayon po ay di ako nabibigyan. Humingi ako ng kopya ng kontrata natin sa frigate deal, hindi rin ako binibigyan,” Alejano added.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who is also gunning for a Senate seat under the OK slate, stressed that it is the duty of the government to reveal these documents to the public, and review the contracts to ensure that the country’s rights are protected.
“Kasi kung hindi mo man lang mabuksan ‘yong mga kontrata, wala ka man lang access, hindi mo talaga masisipat kung ano ‘yong laman. Bilang isang abugado, gusto kong magkaroon ng access don, para makita ko kung mayroon bang constitutional compliance,” Hilbay said.
“Pangalawa, meroon bang legal compliance, may statutory notes, mayroon bang mga pinasa na batas ‘yong Kongreso na kailangang sundin?” he asked. “In the development and exploration of natural resources, the full control has to be under the state.”
But even if the details were made public, Alejano believes that the country is already short-handed as the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has seemed to recognize China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Right now, maliban sa hindi natin nakita ‘yong laman nyan, meron na talagang malaking pagdududa dyan dahil tinatago right from the start,” Alejano said.
“Sa akin nga, ilabas man ‘yang kontrata, dehado na tayo kaagad. We allowed China to have a stake in our own waters, we recognized their rights,” he added.
Different Asian countries have their own claims in the resource-rich WPS. China has recently asserted its presence through militarization.
In the previous administration’s arbitration case against China, the United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal ruled that China’s nine-dash line is invalid. The present administration however has maintained ties with Beijing that includes a possible joint exploration in the WPS. /muf
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