G7 backing of arbitral ruling a green light to explore Recto Bank
MANILA, Philippines — Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Monday advised the government to view the Group of Seven (G7) of developed nations’ backing of the 2016 arbitral ruling as a green light to proceed with the natural gas and crude oil explorations in Recto (Reed) Bank off Palawan.
The senior lawmaker also called on China to “abandon” its baseless, expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.
“We thank the G7, led by the United States, for their expression of support. This will strengthen our position that China should respect the ruling won during the Aquino administration and should recognize our territorial sovereignty over several islets, waters and the resources in them that China is claiming,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
He pointed out that the G7 statement rejects China’s sweeping territorial assertion and its continued occupation and militarization of several islands, and stressed, “Beijing should now abandon that assertion, which has no basis in international law.”
Rodriguez urged the Marcos administration to start exploring for natural gas and crude oil in Recto Bank, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
He noted that while the Malampaya natural gas project was projected to continue yielding gas up to 2024, “we should start the Reed Bank project, which is estimated to hold a lot more natural gas and oil reserves than Malampaya.”
He stressed that the government should not be prevented from doing so by any anticipated reaction from Beijing, “Otherwise, we will not be able to do any activity there.”
In a joint statement, the G7 leaders said: “We reiterate that the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribune on July 12, 2016, is a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties.”
“There is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China’s militarization activities in the region,” they said and expressed serious concern over the situation in the East and South China Seas. Japan, a member of the G7, is also locked in a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.