Maranao leader wants ‘judicial scrutiny’ of PH-China fuel search deal
Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc-Tomawis on Thursday called for the “judicial scrutiny” of the government’s agreement with China for a joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Gutoc-Tomawis said she is willing to throw her support to the undertaking if it is proven to be “constitutionally compliant and economically beneficial.”
“For this purpose, I ask that the agreement be scrutinized by a constitutional expert such as Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who can give an impartial and expert opinion on the questions of law, patrimony and sovereignty,” Gutoc-Tomawis noted in a statement.
Even if Carpio is “a vocal critic of the Chinese presence” in the WPS, Gutoc-Tomawis believes the high-ranking magistrate can still give an objective opinion on the Philippine-China joint exploration deal in the WPS.
“He is in a position to provide useful insights and interpretation on the agreement for the exploration,” she said.
While Gutoc-Tomawis considers the joint exploration initiative – “if it is truly only a joint exploration with China” – could be “very beneficial for us,” she noted it would still be wise to have it scrutinized “for language that may conceal economic pitfalls and hidden agenda.”
Gutoc-Tomawis stressed that although “we value socio-cultural collaboration with China, we cannot allow any taking of territory.”
“… Lest we are unwittingly, or worst knowingly, giving away our territory and our resources,” she said.
“We should not wait until it becomes impossible to assert our claim to our territory in the WPS,” she also said.
The Maranao leader then cited how the relationship between the Philippines and China “further polarized the country’s political landscape because of sovereignty issues” since it became the subject of “intense debates” among Filipinos.
But she rallied “every Filipino, who values our sovereignty and honors what our heroes fought hard to achieve” to “pressure the administration” to make sure the government asserts its rights over the country’s territories and resources.
She likewise encouraged taking “all peaceful and diplomatic avenues” that are available under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) to resolve the sea row.
A latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 84 percent of Filipinos opposed how the government lets China build and fortify its military outposts in the WPS.
The Philippines and China are locked in a longstanding maritime dispute over the South China Sea with Beijing claiming nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the WPS.
But the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated such claims of China in July 2016 ruling that favored the Philippines’ rights over the area.
China, however, refused to recognize the historic ruling that was based on the UNCLOS.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has opted to shelve the landmark decision and instead engaged China in bilateral talks. /kga